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Forgings Help Preserve Maritime History

Three unique forgings were instrumental in granting North Carolina's storied Cape Hatteras Lighthouse a reprieve from the encroaching Atlantic Ocean. The components are part of a colossal jacking system used in a $12 million relocation project that lifted the lighthouse from its original foundation on the Outer Banks, moved it over a half mile and lowered it onto its new location.

The lighthouse was built in 1870 on Hatteras Island, near Buxton, to warn mariners of menacing Diamond Shoals. Its site was 1600 ft. from the open ocean, a distance that the builders believed would make the lighthouse invulnerable. In the ensuing 129 years, however, beach erosion has advanced the sea almost to the base of the light.

The National Park Service, which oversees the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, had two alternatives: Move the structure to safety or let it succumb to the advancing surf. In an era when large-vessel navigators rely on global positioning satellites, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse represents maritime history worth preserving. And for craft not equipped with GPS, it is still a potential lifesaver.

At 208 ft., the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick structure of its kind in the United States, a fragile 4800-ton masonry spire with aging mortar joints. Moving the lighthouse required lifting and rolling while maintaining it absolutely plumb. Tilting could at the least result in massive cracking. At worst, the lighthouse could be reduced to a pile of historic rubble. Jahns Structure Jacking Systems (JSJS) has confronted similar problems before. The Elburn, Illinois company manufactures specialized equipment for lifting and moving structures, and has previous experience in lighthouse relocation: Rhode Island's much lower Block Island light in 1993.