Lookout Lighthouse - continued:
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.
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
Once you make it up the steps and through
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
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.
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.
in or out the hatchway to the gallery requires some flexibility.
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
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
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.
two views of the beacon were
taken outside from the gallery.
view from Cape
Lookout Lighthouse was absolutely spectacular for the November
1, 2003 "open house" event. One example is this telephoto view
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.
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
Looking north from the lighthouse gallery,
the image above is a long telephoto shot looking
north several miles up Core Banks.
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.
is much more to see. Next - page 4
to Cape Lookout Lighthouse - Page