Lighthouses of America & Europe

Overview

Lighthouses enthrall many people, both young and old. They are tall, emposing structures, and they have existed for at least one thousand years. Most lighthouses that exist today have been constructed 100 years ago, as with the advent of new technologies they have not been put to use as much as they are needed to. Radar and sonar have driven the decline of the construction of lighthouses, but they still exist across bot the East and West Coasts of the United States and also the Western portions of Europe.

History

One of the oldest lighthouses in Europe that still survives today is Hook Lighthouse in Northern Ireland. It still works today, and its light has been used over the few hundred years since its constuction to guide boats toward safe harbor. The oldest known lighthouse was the Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the 7 wonders of the anceint wold. It was destroyed by multiple earthquakes and the scavenging of its stones for building materials. During the Roman period and the conquest of most of Europe, they built many lighthouses that later fell into disuse by the medieval era, or were turned into makeshift castles. By the time of the LAte Middle Ages, lighthouses were used much mroe regularly, and by the 1700's with the discovery of the American continent were being built in full force across most of Europe and North America.

Oldest Roman Lighthouse

The oldest lighthouse, as already mentioned, is the Hook Lighthouse. However, the oldest Roman Lighthouse is the Tower of Hercules in A Coruña, Spain. The tower is known to have existed by the 2nd century, built or perhaps rebuilt under Trajan, possibly on foundations following a design that was Phoenician in origin. It is thought to be modeled after the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Its base preserves a cornerstone with the inscription MARTI AUG.SACR C.SEVIVS LVPVS ARCHTECTVS AEMINIENSIS LVSITANVS.EX.VO, permitting the original lighthouse tower to be ascribed to the architect Gaius Sevius Lupus.
Image of the Tower of Hercules

Most Famous American Lighthouse

The tallest lighthouse in the United States is Cape Hatteras Light, in North Carolina. It stands at 210 feet. The Outer Banks are a group of barrier islands on the North Carolina coast that separate the Atlantic Ocean from the coastal sounds and inlets. Atlantic currents in this area made for excellent travel for ships, except in the area of Diamond Shoals, just offshore at Cape Hatteras. Nearby, the warm Gulf Stream ocean current collides with the colder Labrador Current, creating ideal conditions for powerful ocean storms and sea swells. The large number of ships that ran aground because of these shifting sandbars gave this area the nickname "Graveyard of the Atlantic." It also led Congress to authorize the construction of the Cape Hatteras Light. In 1999, with the sea encroaching the tower, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse had to be moved from its original location at the edge of the ocean to safer ground. Due to erosion of the shore, the lighthouse was just 15 feet (4.6 m) from the water's edge and was in imminent danger. The move was a total distance of 2,900 feet (880 m) to the southwest, placing the lighthouse 1,500 feet (460 m) from the current shoreline.
Image of Cape Hatteras Light