Cape Lookout Lighthouse - continued:

At the top of the stairs you reach the "service room". Here you encounter the first of several hurdles which add to the problems faced by the Park Service in their efforts to make Cape Lookout Lighthouse accessible to the public. The diagram below was created from Park Service images to help explain the difficulties in reaching the lighthouse gallery.

In the service room level there is a narrow metal stair, less than 24 inches wide, which leads up through an equally narrow opening in the floor of the watch room above. The opening is just wide enough for an average-size person to squeeze through, and the steps have no safety railing. This alone makes carrying any sort of shoulder bag, backpack, camera bag, etc., a problem at the least, and a safety issue at worst. The usable width of the stairs is little more than the width of a computer keyboard, because the bracing beams take away much of the width of the steps. One of the steps was cut in half to make room for the bracing.

Once you make it up the steps and through the opening to the watch room, you find yourself in a small room. The fluted metal drum (or cauldron, for lack of a proper term) which used to hold the Fresnel lens is just overhead. It is not very high, and you have to stoop to avoid hitting your head. If you look up around the side of it, you can see the beacon rotating just out of reach, as shown in the photo a right.

The small room is surrounded by heavy metal cross-bracing beams which block the doorway to the gallery. Without knowing the scale of objects in the photos, this problem does not look to be so bad. But once you realize that the crossing point of the beams is at best 4 feet above the floor, you see that even a child would have to duck down to get under the cross beam. An adult has to squat down, duck-waddle under or go on hands and knees, depending on their physical abilities. Still, that is only half the problem.

The door is actually a ships hatchway, and it is not very big, as evidenced when seen with a park ranger sitting next to it for scale (left photo). Once you get one foot outside the door onto the gallery, you have to stoop over and squeeze out of the hatchway. The ranger, by the way, is sitting on the ledge at the bottom of the door with her feet on the floor. That's because the bottom of the "door" is 18-24 inches off the floor. In addition to that, the space between the door and the beams is barely enough that you can straighten up between them. Then you must get a knee up high enough to put a foot over the threshold of the door. Many people, and especially older folks without good flexibility will find it difficult to manage this obstacle course.

Getting in or out the hatchway to the gallery requires some flexibility.

Okay, now that you're out on the gallery, the problems are over, ....Right?. Sorry. There's one more little surprise, and it's not the paint problem, which is painfully obvious in the photos of the hatchway. Look next to the door where it swings out on the hinges. You see a large metal rod attached to the gallery floor going up. The photo at right shows this better. There are several of these rods all around the gallery, connecting the outside edge of the lantern room to the gallery floor for support. There are also cracks in several places in the gallery floor, one of which is easily visible in the photo.

The gallery is only about 3 feet wide to begin with, quite a bit narrower than at Cape Hatteras or Currituck Beach. As you can see, these rods sit nearly in the middle of the gallery floor, dividing the space where people have to walk. You can squeeze sideways between the rods and the wall, or walk around the outside of the rods. In either case, they are obstructions which caused quite a bit of frustration, even with only eight visitors allowed on the gallery at one time for these special occasion climbs. It would have been a traffic jam without the rods, but with the rods in the way it was worse.

These two views of the beacon were
taken outside from the gallery.
Of course, Mother Nature had to have her say as well. There was a swarm of yellow jackets on the southeast side of the gallery in the warm sun on the November, 2003 climb, so everyone had to keep away from that side of the tower. And again on the June, 2004 climb, the east side of the gallery was roped off due to high winds on that side. In both cases, the space that was left was jammed with two park guides and eight visitors trying to make the most of the few precious minutes they were afforded on the gallery.

The view from Cape Lookout Lighthouse was absolutely spectacular for the November 1, 2003 "open house" event. One example is this telephoto view looking west northwest across the tip of the "bight" of Cape Lookout, on past the western tip of Shackleford Banks and across Beaufort Inlet to the bridge crossing Bogue Sound between Atlantic Beach and Morehead City, at least 13 miles away. With binoculars the view would likely be even better.
The view at left is looking northwest across Shackleford Banks, with the western tip of Harker's Island in the very top right corner. In the center of the photo are some people walking along the shore on Shackleford Banks, and above them are some Shackleford ponies grazing. They can be seen more clearly in the detailed enlargement at the right. The people are in the bottom left, and two ponies can be seen grazing in the upper right. Below is a different photo of Shackleford Banks, capturing most of Shackleford in this wide-angle view.

Looking north from the lighthouse gallery, the image above is a long telephoto shot looking north several miles up Core Banks.

The panoramic photo (above right), assembled from three telephoto shots, also looks up the Core Banks and across the sound toward Marshallberg, Davis and Sealevel.The larger image viewed from the link does not do justice to the original. It is only 1/5 original size, and is heavily compressed into JPEG format, so the details simply are not there. This is true of many of the wide-angle and panoramic photos here. The original files are available for a standard fee by individual request, and may at some point be added to the photo gallery.

There is much more to see. Next - page 4
Continue to Cape Lookout Lighthouse - Page Four > Cape

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National Park Service - Cape Lookout Lighthouse

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Cape Lookout Lighthouse in the Lighthouse Gallery

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