Back from the Brink

by Anne Elizabeth Powell, Editor in Chief; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Reston, VA.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1999, Vol. 69, Issue 10, Pg. 52-57

Document Type: Feature article


The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States, has been moved to prevent it from toppling into the sea as a result of coastal erosion. Engineers from International Chimney Corporation in Buffalo, New York, and the Law Gibb Group in Alpharetta, Georgia, moved the 200 ft (61 m) tall lighthouse by transferring the weight of the structure to steel beams and then nudging the landmark to its new location via a push-jack and rolling-carriage system. Since the lighthouse was constructed in 1870 at a distance of 1,600 ft(488 m) from the Atlantic Ocean, the shoreline has eroded to within 120 ft (36.5 m) of the structure and continues to erode at a rate of ten ft (3 m) per year. The project challenge was to relocate the entire light station complex to a site 2,900 ft (884 m) to the southwest, placing it once again at a distance of 1,600 ft (488 m) from the shoreline. The National Park Service, the steward of the lighthouse, decided in December 1989 to move the structure in lieu of constructing a seawall around it. The decision was based on a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, which recommended the move as the best means of ensuring that the historic structure would not eventually collapse into the sea.

Subject Headings: Steel structures | Steel beams | Shoreline protection | Seas and oceans | Structural failures | Sea walls | Project management

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