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Help Needed in Support of the Cape Hatteras Lens/Pedestal

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Postby Hersh » Mon Aug 21, 2006 6:40 pm


Kevin,
I appreciate your posting your thoughts here. I read "The Lost Light"; as a matter of fact it was a copy you autographed for me at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Fest a couple years back. So your commitment to and knowledge of this subject are, in my mind anyway, unquestionable.

Knowing that money will not be taken directly from Bodie for this project is a relief, but it only partially asuages my feelings of hesitation. As I mentioned before, I like the idea that a part of that beautiful and functional machine is still in the tower doing it's job. (I would argue that it is not necessarily useless without the lens)

When I climbed Hatteras in 2005 I was struck by the sight of the big, beautiful pedestal sitting there. I certainly was not "oblivious" to it's significance. I thought a lot about the original 1st order sitting atop it for all those years, and I felt connected with a piece of history being able to stand there and touch it. Would I feel that way looking at the lens - pedestal together in the museum? Maybe, maybe not.

As for comparing this to the move of the tower, as I understand it, one of the major reasons that people were opposed to that plan was the danger that the move could topple the tower. Weighed against the reality of the rapidly receding shoreline, the move won out as the best way to save the lighthouse. I don't think you would have seen much opposition if the move would have had no chance of failure. With this situation we're not talking about losing any history, simply the best way and place to showcase it.

At this point I can't say I'm completely opposed to the project, both sides have valid arguments, but I still have concerns. Is removal the better of two options? Seems like a pretty subjective question to me.
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Postby COTA » Mon Aug 21, 2006 8:00 pm


I can see both sides of the issue. I, too, have already thought about what it would feel like to climb the Cape Hatteras and the pedastal be gone. I can also feel a sinking feeling in my stomach, but as Kevin states "change" is a big part of it. Having climbed the lighthouse and seen the pedastal there everytime, will forever be etched in my mind, and the feelings that go with it. However, take someone new that climbs and the pedastal was removed prior to. They don't have that powerful connection missing, as previously climbers will. If I climbed a lighthouse up north, and someone came along later to tell me what I missed, I wouldn't have that connection. I recall after a hurricane, they put iron over the windows at Hatteras, which was definitely something I wasn't used to. I didn't like that, but I knew it was for protection until the windows could be refurbished. Now those iron pieces are gone, and looking out those windows and feeling the wind is great!

I haven't been around the lighthouse community as long as others, but I've seen already that change is rapid, most times not good, esp. with our NC lights in the path of hurricanes. I mostly certainly want to see Bodie saved as much as the rest of you, esp. since it has the original 1st Order lens. Restoration/preservation of organizations work for the good of saving our history, but we really need the funds from Congress as I understand it to make the progress of saving Bodie. We are riding on them and hopes they will provide the necessary means.

Not at all singling Mike out, but he asked or made the statement about the question seems to be where is the best place? May I ask this. If you were going to send out a message in hopes of help, enlightenment, or seeking knowledge, etc., how would one most benefit? With an educational exhibit in the GoA Museum, how many could benefit compared to the ones if the pedastal remained? I understand the concern of moving or taking away part of the structure, but when I do climb, I am reminded sadly of what structure it supported. If all could go well, and say the project proceeded...yes, the pedastal would be forever gone from the top, but in a place that would be far more assessible by the public. Also, if one may dream into the future, and the funds were provided, and Bodie continues to hold strong, there will be a wonderful and magnificent lens to view once climbed to the top. Now that would provide way more than our NC lights have been offering, and certainly a gain.

I think, that every year hurricane season comes, I fear for the OBX and the lights. They are so vulnerable, and I hope for the best. I think when it all comes down to it, all of us here hope for the best for all the lighthouses. They all have different needs, and we all strive to meet them, and save them. Granted, the pedastal is not deemed to be in danger, but just a question of where it should be.

Being a North Carolinian, I do want what's best. Sometimes, what everyone thinks is best is not always, or agreeable. Hopefully, the NPS will determine. I respect all who has voiced their concerns, as they too have been mine at one point.

I make it no secret, that I am overall in favor of this. I have tried to look at it from different viewpoints, as a resident of this state, lighthouse lover, OBX lover, questioned outsiders who are not into lighthouses their thoughts, as an occupational therapist, etc. I feel that this would bring a little more opportunity for education, such as children, disabled children/adults, etc. to have a chance to see something that someone else might take for granted. How many of us are healthy, climb 268 steps, and wonder how the keepers of the past did it throughout the night? And yet, what about those who will never be able to climb? What do they get to experience? And how big of an opportunity will these same folks have to travel outside NC to see such a display in another state? I guess the therapist side is sticking out, as I wish for those people to enjoy it as well. Disabled and developmental children really have a deep appreciation for the little things in life, and it doesn't take much to make them happy, whereas we somethimes have to do a reality check. And let's not forget the elderly, or those too arthritic.

As I can see the other viewpoints of leaving the pedastal, I just wonder how many could enjoy seeing such a display. I would also like to leave this thought. As there are fewer lighthouses in my state, far less related activities, cruises, as well as lighthouse related artifacts, and far less seminars, storytelling, etc......(you guys have a lot of action up north!)...we don't have the ample opportunities that the public can participate in, or the kids' programs. I think the Northeast regions are very lucky in what they offer. I would just love to see a little more opportunity available here.

I hope to have not offended anyone by stating my opinions.
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Postby Kevin » Mon Aug 21, 2006 8:19 pm


Mike,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. As an independent historian, author and publisher, I especially appreciate and respect the opinions of every one of my readers.

I, too, have climbed Hatteras many times, and have admired the pedestal and appreciated its place in history. In fact, in recent months I have finally succeeded in determining that my great great-grandfather (a private in the Union army on Hatteras in September, 1861) was among the first to see the same pedestal in the original Hatteras tower without its lens. But I submit to you that our personal knowledge of the pedestal's history and purpose is rare among the thousands who climb the tower each season. The uninitiated and uninformed have no idea what it is or why it's there. In addition, a great majority of visitors to Hatteras never make it to the top. Even my 14-year-old niece (an aspiring historian) and her school field trip were turned away earlier this summer. How many elderly people, parents with young children, or people daunted by the prospect of 256 steps, choose not to climb? What about all of those who visit the lighthouse between Columbus Day and Easter (and there are more each year)? The pedestal's greater potential is not just to serve those of us who know what it is and are able to reach it nearly 20 stories in the sky. And the day may come when nobody will be allowed to climb to the top.

No other lighthouse artifact can tell the amazing story--the wide-ranging odyssey of the Hatteras lens and its pedestal. There is no other lens exhibit, that I know of, anywhere in America, that stands as a bitter testament to the importance of preservation, than ours at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. The impact of that message will be even greater with the apparatus displayed as a whole, imposing and startling, as it stands in the center of the museum's lobby.

Further, the NPS has no plans nor funding to restore the pedestal to its original appearance. It is just not a priority, and rightly so, compared to the dire needs to protect the Bodie tower and its intact lens. So, on the suggestion that we're not really endangering history by leaving the pedestal at the top of the Hatteras tower, I have to disagree. Pieces of the pedestal are missing. We have already lost a lot, in terms of its physical nature and its interpretation.

Kevin
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Postby beachbum1616 » Tue Aug 22, 2006 1:37 am


Kevin,

Thank you for taking the time to tell us more about the project, how it will take place, its pourpose, and the thought process that went in to getting the whole things started.

My concern over the project stems from the fact that so many towers in this country are sitting out there without their lenses; witch were obviously the vital mechanism that made the lighthouse work. There are very few places, especially in this area where a person can go to see a lighthouse with its lens intact, in the tower, still conducting its nightly duties and are able to learn about the lenses, how they work, and their importance to mariners.

While I am not completely AGAINST the lens pedestal being taken from the tower and reunited with the remains of it lens, I am just not 100% FOR it. I see this as a continued effort that takes the Cape Hatteras light further from its original makeup and my concern is for those people who will come to the tower after the pedestal is removed and are not as lighthouse savvy as we are, the post pedestal and lens lighthouse may lead these people to believe that this is the way lighthouses were setup and worked. Has anyone considered putting in some informational photos in the watch room to show what was originally there?

I do agree that people will now be able to see and understand what was at the top of the lighthouse when they visit the museum, something that will allow those who can’t or won’t climb the tower understand and appreciate this great mechanism and how it worked. Having done a lot of research on lenses, I have a great appreciation for them and how they work and are fascinated by them. Yes, the pedestal will be in a position to be better cared for. I am sure it is not getting the attention that it truly needs.

There are probably more positives than negatives for the move, and if it is moved, we will go and see it with the remains of the lens. We have not had a chance to go to the museum yet (the day we went, it was closed), and support the fact that it is there if it is moved.

As for the pedestal at the Cape Romain lighthouse, I consider it historically significant. Even though it didn’t come from the tallest lighthouse in America, how many lives did it help save? My mention of that was just as a reference to what the lantern room/watch room area is like with just the pedestal and no lens.

In closing, thanks again for bring more information to the table. I look forward to your new book. We have talked many times about going to see the shipwrecks of the OBX but do not have much info on their history and location. I hope that it will be a good source of information and look forward to purchasing it.

Just my two cents worth….
Stephen

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Postby epona » Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:14 am


To everyone this topic has been one of the more informative discussion that I have seen on this board in a long time. I due take issue with some of the comments that Kevin as made about the importance of this particular lighthouse and it's place in history.

Overall it is good that this topic has come up and that we are having a balanced talk about it.

Now does anyone from outside of the United States who posts on this board have anything to say about any of this?

Carole and of course Epona
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Postby Kevin » Tue Aug 22, 2006 6:22 am


The reason that I have stated that the illuminating apparatus (lens and pedestal) from the original Cape Hatteras Lighthouse "represents one of the most significant artifacts in American lighthouse history" is because the light's status was established, not by me, but by the U.S. Lighthouse Board, the U.S. Congress, the media and President Lincoln's Cabinet. Of all of the lenses removed and hidden by Confederates throughout the south during the Civil War, the Hatteras lens was the only one singularly mentioned in the nation's newspapers and was pursued by thousands of Union soldiers and sailors. When the Lighthouse Board decided to build the 1870 Hatteras tower, the world's tallest brick lighthouse at the place considered one of the most dangerous and deadly places for shipping in the U.S., they thought enough about the 1854 Henry-Lepaute lens and pedestal to reserve it for that purpose, even though there was already another first-order lens at the construction site. If the artifact holds a high place in lighthouse history, it's because history has put it there.

My intent is not to lessen the significance of other lighthouses and their lenses. They each are important, beautiful and have a unique story to tell. They all have saved countless lives. I'm simply saying that in all of the U.S., and the world as well, there will be only one museum and one exhibit that will tell the fascinating yet tragic tale of the Cape Hatteras lens and pedestal and the role they played in the early days of Fresnel lenses in the United States, during the dark years of the Civil War, during the golden age of lighthouse construction, and ultimately, during a time when our lost and forgotten history led to the destruction of a valuable American treasure.

By the way, in response to Stephen's question, I have offered my time and resources to help the NPS place an interpretive exhibit inside the watch room to tell the story of the 1854 Hatteras lens. Also, keep in mind that we are also hoping to receive the five remaining upper catadioptric panels which have been improperly bolted together (jeopardizing the safety of the 65 prisms within) and are displayed without interpretation at the bookstore on the lighthouse grounds. Your comments of support of our efforts are encouraged.
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Postby beachbum1616 » Tue Aug 22, 2006 6:33 am


At one time, it was thought that people who come and visit the lens might be able to return prisims that were taken during the time it was left unintended. Do you think anyone will donate any of those prisims or has anyone done so yet?
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Postby Kevin » Tue Aug 22, 2006 7:38 am


Great question. The plan has been to commence an aggressive public relations effort to recover the missing prisms, and most significantly, two entire and presumably intact center flash panels which we believe were removed shortly after the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1936. There's reason to believe they may still be somewhere on the island. Also tragically missing is the entire IOV lantern. This October may be the last chance the museum will have the funds to restore individual prisms to the lens frame (while the lens will be dismantled) so we hope to be able to encourage folks to return what they have. Whether they will or not remains to be seen. We don't expect to ever recover 100% of the glass. I wouldn't be surprised if some prisms have traveled to the far-flung homes of retired Federal officials and are being used as paper weights. Sadly, prisms, as well as other artifacts, inherited by succeeding generations have probably lost their identity.
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Postby COTA » Tue Aug 22, 2006 10:06 am


Kevin,

Thanks for bringing forth a magnitude of information to this forum.

Beth
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Postby Red » Tue Aug 22, 2006 12:39 pm


Carol,
I find it hard to believe that you do not see the historical significance that Cape Hatteras Light has played over the past two hundred years. You would have a much better appreciation for Cape Hatteras Light if you were to visit the Outer Banks and see the shallow waters and shoals that it warned mariners of. RED
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Postby Hersh » Wed Aug 23, 2006 7:02 pm


I don't think the historical significance of Hatteras and it's lens is even debateable. Being the tallest tower in the U.S., (which would probably make it close to the tallest in North America I'm guessing), coupled with the amazing story of the removal, loss, and eventual recovery of the original lens makes the case here. Look at the role the light played in history through two centuries. Then you factor in the story of the tower's move... I don't know of any lighthouse in America that can compare with Hatteras.

And having said that, Hatteras is not on my top 5 list of favorite lighthouses... But I still can't help but acknowledge it's standing as probably the most historically significant lighthouse in the U.S.
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Postby beachbum1616 » Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:53 am


Mike,

Hard to argue with that logic :!:
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Postby mikev » Thu Aug 24, 2006 6:18 am


Aside from the Statue of Liberty, of course. But that historicity isn't for lighthouse reasons. :)
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Postby epona » Thu Aug 24, 2006 10:01 am


Red,

I do see the historical importance of Cape Hatteras. All of my ancestors where either in Northern Europe when the War Between the States took place. I see the larger picture in terms of history.

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Postby Hersh » Thu Aug 24, 2006 1:11 pm


And what would that larger picture look like? I guess I don't follow what you're getting at.
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