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Cape Cod's oldest lighthouse, locally known as the Highland Light, is officially named "Cape Cod Light" on the NOAA nautical chart for the region. It sits perched 120 feet above the ocean in the Highlands of Truro. Its beam shines 174 ft. above sea level to give mariners warning of the treacherous sandbars off this shore. The Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse is a major attraction for visitors to Cape Cod.
The Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse Upgrades
The Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse was built in 1797, rebuilt in 1853, and replaced in the same location with the current structure in 1857. The first illumination was fueled with whale oil, then subsequently, lard, kerosene, and finally, electricity. In 1901 a new, more powerful lens was installed. This "First Order" Fresnel lens greatly extended the seaward reach of the beam of light, flashing one half-second flash every 5 seconds. In 1932 the light was electrified. During the 1950's this Fresnel Lens was replaced by a four-way beacon. In 1986 the Highland Light was automated with a 2-way beacon, using the same signature.
The Highlands of Truro have been steadily eroding since 1797. When Thoreau visited Highland Light in the 1850's, he wrote in "Cape Cod" about the extensive erosion of the cliffs fronting the lighthouse. In 1990 only 128 feet of the original 500 foot setback remained. Then concerned citizens of the Town of Truro took action. After years of fund-raising, which included contributions from the citizens of Truro and many visitors from all over the world, the lighthouse was moved to its present site.
Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse Relocation
In July of 1996, when the Highland Light was only 100 feet away from the edge of the cliff, the lighthouse was moved to its present location. The International Chimney Company of Buffalo, New York lifted the 430 ton lighthouse, and pushed it on steel "I" beams, lubricated with Ivory Soap, 453 feet to a safer location. The $1.54 million dollar cost was shared among the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the United States Coast Guard, the National Park Service, and the Truro Historical Society.
The Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse is owned by the Cape Cod National Seashore and is managed by Highland Museum and Lighthouse, Inc., a private non-profit organization. The light is maintained by the United States Coast Guard, and continues to function as a primary aid to navigation.
Handicap Accessibility At Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse
There is limited handicap parking at the lighthouse. Anyone that is unable to climb the lighthouse stairs is welcome to come into the base of the lighthouse and also view the video part of the lighthouse tour at no charge. The 10 minute video (accessible through the gift shop entrance) includes a history of the lighthouse, the moving of the lighthouse in time lapse photography and the relighting of the light. A one hour long version of the video is available in the gift shop.
May 17th, 2012
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