and then there was light

Tomer's Lighthouse

Image by Tomer Tysowsky

Reading Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm germinated in me an unhealthy desire to watch a mega-storm; probably not on the water, but close enough to feel the tininess that is being human.

Over the last summer I ventured attempted to visit all of the lighthouses along the North Carolina coast, in severely illogical order:

light houses.pdf

Original image from Lantern Press, Lighthouse and Town Map, Outer Banks

I also went to the Wright Brothers Memorial near Manteo, and was struck anew by the willpower of mechanics and tinkerers who are hell-bent on figuring out that they had set out to figure out. Especially when your co-conspirator is your equally tinkering, equally dedicated, equally bachelor brother. And with the collective power of their frontal lobes, tiny humans strained toward a dream and took to the sky.

Naturally, the one lighthouse I chose to climb is the tallest: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at 210 feet, depending on your sources. There are pages of all sorts of terrible things that might happen, for which the government is not responsible in case they should befall you. An AED was located halfway in the tower; and the question remains, who shall deliver said device in its need?

I was fascinated by the Fresnel glasses, which in their own right, have grades much like diamonds. Apparently the lenses were also irresistible to thieves, although if I had my choice, acquisition of any loot should not increase my likelihood to suffer a herniated disc. I have no idea what sort of pulley system was called upon to transport the unauthorized acquisition, but that is one potentially deadly Rapunzel’s delivery.

The lighthouses seem arcane now: the light’s automated, and the buildings are arguably ornamental. But in their time, the lighthouses are human’s victories over nature, who unfazed by the darkness of a wild sea, created for themselves a guiding light. The tender to conquer storms are measured in men’s lives, but the human spirit seems to be immortal.

For more stories of tinkerers who won’t let up on their dreams, check out How We Got to Now. I have a moderate geek crush on Steven Johnson. 

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