Lights and Flights

We had to say goodbye to Ocracoke as we moved on northward.  We arrived at the ferry terminal just as one ferry was leaving which gave us an almost assured spot on the next one.  This ferry will take us to Hatteras, does not take reservations and is free!  While we waited for the ferry we did a little more beach combing where we found a dead puffer fish (we think) and a dead jelly fish (we think).  We boarded the ferry and set sail.  I took my computer into the passenger lounge to do some work while the rest of the fam stayed in the vehicle and….uh, I don’t know what they did.  We arrived at the Hatteras ferry terminal and made a beeline to the famous Hatteras lighthouse.
Hatteras lighthouse

We paid the fee to climb the stairs.  I think the ticket price is much too high for what you get especially on a windy day like we had because you cannot go out on the deck.  However, it is the tallest brick lighthouse in the US and it was right in front of us so we felt obliged to climb.  The three things that struck me are:

  1. Day mark – I’m a land lubber so I know nothing about lighthouses.  I guess I just always figured the fancy pattern on the outside was to make it look interesting and artsy.  But thanks to the Jr. Ranger program I learned that the different patterns, called “day markings”, are so that ships can visually determine their location during the day just like they can by interpreting the unique light flashing pattern they observe at night
  2. Weights – Before the lighthouse had electricity I never even thought about what might make the light/lens move to produce the unique flashing pattern.  I don’t know how common it is but in the Hatteras lighthouse they used giant 150lb weights that would slowly lower through the center of the house due to gravity and would turn a clockwork mechanism.  The lighthouse keeper had to crank these up by hand every day or 2.  I grew up with a cuckoo clock in our house that had weights disguised as pine cones on a chain that operated on the same principle.  Pretty clever!
  3. Relocation – They moved this lighthouse!  They did not disassemble and reassemble in a new location, no, they picked it up and moved it in one piece to its new location!

We enjoyed our visit.  I was disappointed that they did not have a better exhibit describing a Fresnel lens but other than that it was a nice stop and perfectly situated on our route to make for a lunch break as well.

Some shelling while waiting for ferry

Puffer fish?

Jelly fish


Steph and Brielle

Taking in the view

Lots of stairs


Going down

Hateras steps

King Kong


Hatteras lighthouse


We landed at the OBX Campground in Kill Devil Hills to take in the surrounding area.  Nothing really stands out about the campground other than its proximity to the Wright Brothers memorial.  So the next day we headed off to learn about the the men who flew.  The museum is small but very well laid out I thought.  I found it interesting how the brothers were motivated by the fact that so many other smart people were unable to make much progress on powered flight and so figured they had as good a chance as anyone at making it happen.  The fact that they were self funded and did so through their bicycle shop made me an instant fan!  Despite their lack of formal training they were truly scientist engineers.  The way they experimented with different airfoils and angle of attack and recorded lift as a function of the two was impressive.

We attended a program given by a young and very (perhaps even over) enthusiastic ranger.  But if I had to pick between a boring stick-in-the-mud ranger and Ranger Chelsea I’d choose the latter.  The kids really liked her presentation as she brought the story of the Wright Brothers to life with lots of props including the full scale model Wright Flyer.

We went out and walked the grounds where the boys made history.  We saw the take off point and the 4 progressively further down range landing spots of the flights that December day.  The boys each timed themselves running the length of the 4th and longest flight and compared their times to that of the Wright Flyer.  And we hiked to the top of the hill that was the launching point of thousands of glider flights the brothers made and is now home to a giant monument with their names on it.  We finished our visit by getting the kids’ Jr Ranger badges and then headed back home for lunch.

After lunch I stayed home to work while Steph and the kids went to Roanoke Island to visit Fort Raleigh.  I’ll defer to them to tell you about that!

Elmo Pancakes?

The Wright flyer

Acting out the Wright Bros

Wright bros and Wach sibs

Take off point

Longest flight

The fam

Caden and Orville



Brielle and Wilber

Jr Rangers

Wright Flyer jungle gym

Say cheese!


Frog on Dacen!

Jr Rangers

Fort Raleigh


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