If there ever was a perfect symbol of resilience and strong will, it’s the lighthouse. They have been moved, demolished, built upon, have had modern replacements that didn’t last, powered by whale fat, kerosene and refitted with electric power. They have been vandalized and pilfered, and they have been renovated like new.
No wonder people love lighthouses, and the Outer Banks' class of beacons are among the most tireless, you have the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse that is the tallest in America and arguably the most recognized lighthouse in the world. You have Ocracoke lighthouse which is the nation’s second oldest and still in operation, completed way back in 1823. And then you have the twins. Bodie Island Lighthouse and Currituck Beach Lighthouse are essentially built of the same design plans, but painted differently. If they sound like members of a family that’s probably fair to say. They’ve been here longer than any of us alive today, and they’re still keeping watch. The OBX’s newest lighthouse can be found on the Manteo downtown waterfront, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse. It’s a replica of an historic screwpile lighthouse that marked a safe channel for sailing and steaming the so-named shallow wetlands that once lay between Roanoke Island and the mainland. At night, their combined gaze is designed to provide a blanket of protection, a string of lights down the Outer Banks that warns ships at sea to keep a safe distance from the beach or mark an inlet or harbor. By day, their different paint schemes, stripes or bare brick help sailors know where they are in relation to the beach towns, much like our familiar green milepost signs on NC12 do for the rest of us on land. The lighthouses begin to tell the tale of the Graveyard of the Atlantic and countless shipwrecks found off the coast of the Outer Banks.