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Cape Lookout Navigational Aids

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Postby vacastle » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:46 pm


Doesn't the light identify the location at night?
It is visible for 19 nautical miles with an identifible signal pattern of 1 white flash every 15 seconds.

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Postby beachbum1616 » Sat Jan 08, 2005 5:09 pm


True. But how do you know which side of the light you are on or how close you are to the beach or shoals?
Stephen

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Postby Pharoslvr » Sat Jan 08, 2005 5:34 pm


Stephen, its my guess that the mariner would have a relative idea based on his charts, compass and a good set of divider's prior to as well as after he came into site distance of the light. (If he was totally off-course and it was a clear night he also had access to his trusty ole sextant for re-positioning purposes... :) )
(I'm assuming that prior to Loran and GPS all of those OBX shoals were charted....but....when that occurred, I have no idea)

Brent
Last edited by Pharoslvr on Sat Jan 08, 2005 5:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby beachbum1616 » Sat Jan 08, 2005 5:38 pm


True, but lets say that the electonic equipment didn't exist, say like around 1900. Given that, how would you know at night were you were in relation to the shoals?
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Postby vacastle » Sat Jan 08, 2005 5:41 pm


Well here's my guess as to why Cape Lookout would not have had a red sector.

It's because of the haze that hangs around the tall NC coastal lights. Haze can cause a white light to appear red, so a red sector would have been dangerously misleading.

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Postby Pharoslvr » Sat Jan 08, 2005 5:56 pm


None of what I mentioned was electronic. If he had a good set of updated charts that marked the outline of the shoals then his compass should keep him off the shoals (hopefully). As far as 1900 is concerned I have no idea whether the shoals were, in fact, plotted. If not, then the only thing he had to go by was past experience in those shipping lanes.

Brent

(P.S. I guess that is one of the reason why the waters in the area around Cape Hatteras was referred to as the "graveyard of the Atlantic." Some of the reason for so many wrecks was caused by very bad weather but some was caused by lack of information on the charts.)
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Postby beachbum1616 » Sat Jan 08, 2005 6:12 pm


I guess what I am trying to ask is this. Lets say that we are sailing down the coastline from the Chesapeake Bay to Wilmington. On our course we pass Currituck, Bodie, Hatteras, Ocracoke, Lookout and get down the coast near Bald Head Island. To properly get into the channel of the Cape Fear River, we have to establish our position in some way so that we will safely get to the entrance to the river without hitting either Bald Head or Oak Islands. Given the fact that there are no buoy markers to mark the river entrance, say back in the old days, it seems like such a shot in the dark to use the naviagtional charts that they may have had back then to get into the river entrance. In other words, how did they use the lighthouse to know how far around Bald Head Island to go to make the river entrance?

I hope I am stating my question clearly.
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Postby Pharoslvr » Sat Jan 08, 2005 7:18 pm


Back in those days the only thing he had to go by were the charts that he had in his cashe, the instruments needed (dividers, parallels, possibly a scale or ruler, a sextant for night use and a compass) and select crewmen to serve as spotters, looking for land and any possible daymarks, including but not limited to lighthouses. And that was it for the most part.

With the objective being [say] the mouth of the Cape Fear River then the Captain would determine how many varous course changes would have to be made in order to get around the hazards that they would encounter along the way [based on a combination of prior knowledge of the waters and what information was shown on the charts].
Of course, a lot had to do with the wind and whether that varied from prevailing conditions. Sailing vessels couldn't always travel in a straight line so modifications had to be made depending on the weather.
Compared to today's navigational aids it probably does seem like a "shot in the dark" but thats what they had to work with back then.

Brent
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Postby island » Sat Jan 08, 2005 7:41 pm


To Captain Brent and Captain Stephen--

In addition to the tools Brent mentioned, you also have lead lines to determine the depth when in shallow waters. You may also find that directions for entering harbors in your current copy of The Atlantic Coast Pilot to be of great value.
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Postby vacastle » Mon Jan 10, 2005 8:02 am


Island,
You asked a very interesting question back in this thread a bunch of posts ago...

Judy.

This was an interesting trivia question you posted. I wonder now if any other light towers were painted is such a way to identify hazards.

At some lighthouses the lights had red sectors to identify danger areas. Can anyone speculate why Cape Lookout light would not have had a red sector that aligned with the danger area of the hazardous Cape Lookout Shoals to the South of this lighthouse?

Island

And I posted a an attempt at the answer...but if kinda got lost when the thread took another turn with Brent & Stephen's conversation, also interesting.

Your question was intriguing, and I'd like to know if I'm on the right track.
My response was...
Well here's my guess as to why Cape Lookout would not have had a red sector.

It's because of the haze that hangs around the tall NC coastal lights. Haze can cause a white light to appear red, so a red sector would have been dangerously misleading.

Judy

I also thought I had added at the time this thought...that if there was a red sector, it would also lessen the intensity and effectiveness of the light, because the pure white light would be stronger and extend out to sea further.

So...am I anywhere near the answer?

Thanks!

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Postby island » Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:22 pm


Judy. You are correct. At a distance a white light takes on a reddish hue. The greater the distance from the light the redder it would appear. Also, the luminous range of a red sector is significantly less than for the white light. For example, Two Bush light is a white flashing light with a fixed red sector. The effective output of the white sector was at one time 120,000 candlepower but the red sector was only 35,000 candlepower. This light functioned to identify the entrance to a deep-water approach to West Penobscot Bay and to communicate to vessels the point where it was safe to turn easterly after exiting the adjacent Muscle Ridge Channel, that being the point where the color changed from red to white. It was not necessary to see the red at great distance because the obstructions to navigation were relatively close to the lighthouse.

Cape Lookout is a primary light and it was desirable that the light be visible as great a distance as practical to guide ships traversing the coast. Also, the dangerous Cape Lookout Shoals south of the light extend several miles out into the ocean. The range of the Cape Lookout white light is 18 nautical miles. At that distance the white light would only be faintly visible and a red sector would not be visible at all and perhaps not beyond only 14 miles as a guess. I do not know if this is specifically why there was no red sector at Cape Lookout but it seems very possible that this would have been a strong consideration. I also do not know if there were any primary lights with fixed red sectors although a few at least were slow flashing red and white.

Another matter, I am wondering if Stephen safely made port at Cape Fear. The keepers at the life-saving stations at Cape Fear and Oak Island report no ships were in distress recently and likewise the keeper of Bald Head light has no information, but we do not have a description of Stephen’s vessel.
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Postby vacastle » Mon Jan 10, 2005 4:30 pm


Thanks, Dave.
You said...
At a distance a white light takes on a reddish hue.
That reddish hue would be partly caused and intensified by the haze that hangs around the top of the tall North Carolina Lights.

This is really why I think a red sector would not have been considered for Cape Lookout.

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Postby island » Mon Jan 10, 2005 7:13 pm


Judy,

I do not know which would be the most significant factor---haze impact on the red hue or lower light intensity of the red. I am more familiar with Maine fog in which you can't see the lights no matter what the color. In "researching" this topic I found the following:

John Lonam, Cape Lookout Lighthouse. 2000
"Coastal North Carolina lighthouses needed to display the light one hundred fifty feet high to be visible above the surface haze. All along the coast, high winds raise a salt spray that hangs suspended fifty feet* in the air. At dawn and dusk the haze can be nearly opaque from a few miles off shore."

* This is likely an average and at times much higher.

Piloting & Dead Reckoning, Third Edition
"Boundaries between sectors may not be sharply defined and may vary with distance off. If necessary to know when you are on the boundary precisely you must take a bearing of the light and not depend on its apparent color. The range of visibility of the individual colors will be different so that from far enough away the white may be visible but not the red or green. In certain atmospheric conditions white lights appear reddish and red lights bluish."

Light List, Volume II, Atlantic Coast 2003
"Altering course on the changing sectors of a light or using the boundaries between sectors to determine the bearing for any purpose is not recommended. Be guided instead by the correct compass bearing to the light and do not rely on being able to accurately observe the point at which the color changes. This is difficult to determine because the edges of a colored sector cannot be cut off sharply. On either side of the line of demarcation between white, red or green sectors, there is always a small arc of uncertain color. Moreover, when haze or smoke are present in the intervening atmosphere, a white sector might have a reddish hue."

Red hue or lower intensity? One or the other or both. Maybe neither. I really do not know what the thinking was with the Cape Lookout light.

David
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Postby epona » Mon Jan 10, 2005 7:55 pm


I do not know about anyone else but what I am really understanding is how dangerous the water around the Outer Banks where and are. Skill in many areas was and is required to handle a boat or sailing ship in this part of the world. A lot of good questions have been raised in this topic. I never thought about red lights or light sections in lighthouses before. Also the distance a light can be seen and under what weather conditions a light is seen is important to consider when we are looking at a lighthouse.
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Postby island » Mon Jan 10, 2005 9:45 pm


Here is a navigation chart showing Cape Lookout and the Cape Lookout Shoals that clearly illustrated the size and the dangers of the shoals.

If you open this page http://www.gracegalleries.com/NorthCaro ... stings.htm
this chart is shown as item NC132 near the bottom of the page. Click on the chart image and you can enlarge it for clearer viewing.

Stephen--NC109, 110 and NC112 might help you with your navigating in your approach to Cape Fear River.
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