OAK ISLAND, N.C. (WECT) – Since 1958, the Oak Island Lighthouse has guided mariners through the infamous Cape Fear shoals.
With its distinct black and white bands, the lighthouse was the next-to-last built along the Atlantic Coast, and was once one of the brightest in the world.
Soon, however, it will enter a new phase, as its famous beacon’s lights are replaced with specially-designed LED bulbs.
Several weeks ago, a series of power surges caused the mechanical system the lights sat on to malfunction, darkening the lighthouse.
Chairman of the Friends of Oak Island Lighthouse group Bob Ahlers said the reaction from the structure’s neighbors was immediate.
“Once the lights stopped burning about four weeks ago, we got hundreds of calls from people and on Facebook and everything saying, ‘What happened to the light, how come it’s not on?’”
But the malfunction provided the opportunity to transition to a new type of light, which the United States Coast Guard was already considering.
“The reason we decided to go to LEDs is that the Coast Guard has been looking at LED technology as replacements, because it’s a lot more efficient and cost effective,” Ahlers said.
Neighbors and regular visitors need not worry, however, because Ahlers said the unique style of the rotating beacon will be preserved.
And despite maritime technology moving on — radar and GPS are the primary navigation tools these days — he said the historic beacon is still active, meaning it can be used as a back-up warning for boats that may experience malfunctions with their modern tools.
And it also holds a special place in the community.
“If you’d ask any of the local boaters whether this is a useful light, useful structure, useful navigational aid, they would say ‘Without a doubt.’ Every one of them as they come across the horizon said they love to see the light of the Oak Island Lighthouse welcoming them home.”
Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.
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