From a Fire on the Beach to a Diamond in the Sky: the Evolution of Lighthouses and Light-Keeping in North Carolina

With historic photographs, drawings and maps, maritime historian Kevin Duffus presents a wide-ranging discussion of North Carolina's rich heritage of guiding mariners, a tradition which surprisingly began nearly five centuries ago.Learn of the earliest recorded effort to guide a ship ashore and the date of the earliest observed shipwreck on the Carolina coast. Discover primitive methods used during colonial times to establish beacons and channel markers. Kevin Duffus demonstrates how the first NC lighthouses, including the original Bald Head lighthouse, utilized technology that wasted 80% of light emitted, and explains why the improved Fresnel lens may be misnamed. See how the architecture of lighthouses and keeper's dwellings evolved over two centuries—from elegant to ugly, and from utilitarian to ornate. You’ll be amazed to learn of the times when the state’s lighthouses and beacons were blown-up, burned, and battered, and lightships were sunk by wars and storms. Learn the functions of screw-pile lights, range lights, and day-marks. Duffus also describes shocking little-known stories of keepers, some who were hired for their political payoffs, the keeper accused of purposely wrecking ships, and others who helped to steal their own lenses. Perhaps most amazing of all is the story of the keeper's house built from a shipwreck. If, as the U.S. Commissioner of Lighthouses once said: "The building and keeping of the lights is a picturesque and humanitarian work of a nation,” then it can also be stated that the story of lighthouses in North Carolina is one of the most fascinating and colorful chapters of the state’s history.