Cape Lookout Lighthouse / Flickr

This Outer Banks lighthouse has stared down all kinds of disasters in its 160 years

A war, dozens of treacherous hurricanes and at least one lightning strike have beleaguered Cape Lookout since its lamp was first lit. But it weathered them all. On Friday, the Cape Lookout National Seashore said the famed diamond-patterned lighthouse is celebrating its 160th birthday with a day of free climbs.

John Royal — its first keeper — climbed 216 steps while carrying five gallons of whale oil to fill Cape Lookout’s lamp at sunset on Nov. 1, 1859, according to the National Park Service.

Now fully automated, the lighthouse uses solar panels and LED lights to warn ships from its stalwart post at the southern tip of the Outer Banks.


The current Cape Lookout Lighthouse is not the first.

An earlier structure was completed in 1812, but seafarers later complained its light could not be seen far out from shore, according to the park service.

At 163 feet with a fixed light that could be seen “18 miles in good weather,” the second lighthouse finished in 1859 was a vast improvement.

Years later, Cape Lookout’s famous diamond pattern made its debut. The lighthouse was painted to distinguish it from similar structures along the coastline in 1873, according to the Outer Banks visitor guide.

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