In the 1970s it looked like the beloved, 200-year-old Cape Hatteras lighthouse was in danger. The sea was getting closer and threatening to swallow it up. And people were torn over what to do about it - they could move the lighthouse, or leave it in place and try to defend it against the forces of nature. For the next 30 years, the locals fought an intense political battle over this decision. It’s the kind of battle we can expect to see a lot more of as sea levels rise and threaten coastal communities around the world.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars, off the coast of North Carolina. There's a thin stretch of islands called the outer banks picture a narrow ribbon of sand that runs along the coast for two hundred miles. These island three miles across at their widest and two hundred yards their narrowest and there's one part of the our banks that used to be especially treacherous for ships called Cape Hatteras that the porter, Gordon Catholic, other podcast called cited, the cape is no, four choppy seas and strong ocean currents. Since, sixteenth century. These waves have caused a lot of shipwrecks over a thousand according to the national park surface. Areas become known as the graveyard of the Atlantic. So many sailors were dying in the late seventeen hundreds, Congo,
authorized the construction of a giant lighthouse. It would eliminate the dangerous passage and make the outer banks less deadly. The lighthouse went up in a small town called Buxton North Carolina Right near Cape Hatteras and the people Buxton they love this lighthouse generation. The families there have helped maintain it. You know what your grandfather did is what your great grandfather did. This is done. Any couch he's descended from english pirates and his family goes back nine generations in North Carolina. Today a Danny leads tours of the outer banks. Gordon went on to our last summer Three maritime symbols in this country number one statue of liberty number to the Golden Gate Bridge and then number three, the granddaddy of american Lighthouse, the two hundred and eight feet tall in Cape Hatteras, lighthouse, honor. I believe
moreover, it is majestic study are red base in a really tall blue I can white spirally painting sort of like a black and white. The chain ceasing people on top observation deck there's, a crowd of people Waiting outside a park range you're standing near the entrance. Anybody, that's because it is all a national park. This is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America that you are about to climb today, so obeys raided climate is a dangerous climate. It's hard to overstate just how important this lighthouse is to the people of Buxton. There are three lighthouse give shops in town, practically
three business here has a lighthouse in its logo or its name like the Lighthouse View Motel or the Lighthouse Sports bar and grill, even the church. It's like the Lighthouse Christian Assembly back in the seventies, it look like Buxton might lose their beloved lighthouse. The sea was getting closer and closer threatening to swallowed up and people were torn over. What to do move House, believe it in place and try to defend it against the forces of nature. Thirty years the people, a Buxton, fought and intense political battle over this decision is the kind of guy We can expect to see a lot more of a say levels rise and threatened coastal communities around the world. I started with a scientist who had a radical idea about what to do with the Lighthouse idea. Almost nobody liked lever for nothing. So important that account falling under the sea. Why don't you introduce yourself? I'm I'm my oral filthy, our retired.
Marine geologist who started out They say you ended up on the beaches or Turkey is a professor merited a Duke University. He quickly where short sleeve button up shirts, with two or three pens in the front pocket and he studies beaches, but there aren't any beaches Duke B. As Duke is right in the middle of the state. So in the nineteen eighties Orne would packets students into a bus and had east all the way to the Cape, Hatteras Lighthouse, Bethulia, pretty exciting phrase. The average wave hide a K. Tatters is higher than anywhere else on the EAST coast, except possibly northern main or in wood, his students at the waves at Cape Hatteras, don't just calmly wall aren't ashore. They slam into it and spray up into the air. While he stood stared out into the water or an explained these wave
or washing away the beach were standing on and soon they reached the lighthouse, the shoreline of the outer bank, the entire? Surely the outer bank, as a rolling and partly this is simply a matter of the ways pecking away at the time. Ninety percent of the world wages are rolling some varies very slightly and some very quickly. Each in front of the White House can erode fast. The rates vary wildly from decades decade. Sometimes the coast loses fifty feet here, other times the beach actually gainsaying. It's an erotic, natural process, but more in says. Climate change is also part of the story. It speeding up the erosion process. For decades, a bunch of different government agencies have been fighting back against the sea. The tribal barriers to slow the waves they put down a wall of sandbags even tried. This thing called beach, nourishment that's just a
an easy way of saying pumping a ton of sand onto the shore and they had some other. Inventive ideas to put in what they call Seascape. It was plastic strips plastic. Their floated strips we're supposed like sea weed and keep the sand from washing away- and here was a very cheap waivers, stop erosion, a k powerful, but it didn't even begin the work. In fact, none of this stuff worked decades of fighting back against the ways. The ocean was getting dangerously close to a lighthouse lesson: a football field away face, agree, weird, stand beside the lighthouse and see how this precious historic. Structure was due to follow him. I mean they were these it. If he were, a good story would have taken out the lighthouse
it will have to be a whim Langer storm, but who ever gotten to that stage, and so on one, seventy four or in road and academic article. He said we ve tried pretty much everything to protect this lighthouse. It's time to give up, he wrote quote: It is difficult but necessary to come to grips with the ultimate result of living with nature at the shore line and then telling the people of Buxton to let the lighthouse go which made them really mad the whole, idea of letting things fall in was was absolutely outrageous, of course, further defend nothing when, as one core of into their colonel said, we're not discount, hold up her hands slate away. Most
North Carolinians did not want to see the lighthouse fall into the sea in nineteen. Eighty one photographer and conservationist name Pew Morton started a group called save the lighthouse schoolchildren across the state raised money to support the group and they recruited prominent North Carolinians, like university. President's business leaders and politicians Danny the target From the beginning of the story, he became the local representative for save the lighthouse in turn of uniting political philosophies, and you know contradictory elements of society. Developers and environmentalists. Everybody can Rally around. It gave out a lighthouse in that was essentially the essence of what was going on. Nothing else matters. It was to do right by not light else in our heritage, in this country. Eventually, Danny settles on one big idea: a solid, concrete wall all the way around the lighthouse. I think you can pick and choose your fights
Mother, nature, you're, not gonna win. All of you gotta pick a fight that you can win yeah. That was at the end of the very I'm an attitude no days about my idea was to live with nature. The shoreline orange but the sea while would be extremely expensive and ultimately counterproductive, well, say walls. This is one of the more controversial things that I would say. Others too, that sea while destroy beaches or had met and diagrams of east coast, and they show the sea was made. Erosion happened even faster. He argued that That's exactly what would happen at the lighthouse. A wall would make the each smaller and smaller, so now you're a beach community without a beach with this sea, while plan, the lighthouse would eventually become a walled island out in the water not ideal but If you were fine with that the wall, probably wooden, hold organs
It is hard to imagine building a sea wall strong enough for the waves at Cape Hatteras. I am glad to based on at the cape. Unless the sea, all development, half the size of the line of the storm server top over the they want and top of the then one day or met an engineer named Dave. The Dave said: look people don't the lighthouse to fall in, we don't want to see wall, but there's a compromise. That thing can be moved. It's around two hundred feet tall about one and a quarter million bricks and forty eight hundred tonnes Believe it or not, engineers have moved bigger buildings. This presented a pretty good opportunity for all. He could use the lighthouse to test something that planners call Man, retreat, The idea is that so rise. We won't be able to defend every coast with a giant wall. Instead
we're going to have to make plans to abandon certain areas and move some things out of the way foreign thought. If bucks could be convinced to move this big lighthouse. It showed that managed retreat is doable So she indeed for study along with one of Orange students, Dave Bush form their own group. They call themselves the move. The Lighthouse Committee's remit, together aloud and we produce a blizzard of papers document things about erosion and think about moving building, mainly aimed at the media. Why? Did you? Why did your care so much to spend so much your time? Yeah? Well, it became a challenge for the game and I guess I guess I got emotionally involved. Also I wanted and let that lighthouse fall in spite of their first article. I see now you got these two groups. They both want to preserve the lighthouse, but their debating how
Ultimately, it's up to Congress and the National Park Service, because this is federal property. So the two group, are trying to convince the feds that they have the better plan. The tone of Buxton flow We rejected organs, move idea, a local magazine did a pull over. Ninety percent of residence wanted to keep the lighthouse in place. Many were offended by the very idea of retreat, humor. Said retreating from the shore line would be quote, seeding man's historic battle against nature, and it would make Buxton the laughing stock of the coast. Danny's group, that's save the lighthouse, they felt confident bake. It win. This fight and they didn't like these outsiders telling them? Otherwise, it was situation of a again where the local people Kind claim ownership that and how dare somebody with some out of stay plates come in here and want to tell these poor dwellers on these shifting lonely sands? What to do
with their lighthouse, I mean we were not afraid to pick a fight were very independent people. Danny told me: story to explain the tension between Orange group and the locals. He said there was a Duke Add student who drive down to give talks in Buxton Danny, remembered meeting him. One day it had a waltz into a gas station that I was running at the time filling station automotive repair shop. We're changing out us semi tyres for a firm your trailers and stuff and start wagging his finger. Figure by phase, don't you this lighthouse, we're gonna lose us Lighthouse and Yaller. Instruction is you are who you are? not your. He didn't newly when they all You are holding the sub you're holding this project up there stand in air would like attire. Aren't my aunt and in his group had a serious credibility problem in Buxton and they understood why people are Danny, were upset, of course,
course we were outside away or from from, far away and Durham. This ever give you pop. I suppose so, Their community and thing? hey. I know the truth I felt that there was a bit of arrogance in that, but but what was the choice? I didn't know anything about how how you deal with people. I guess- and in this sense I understood sometimes I was speaking over their Heather, a faint things, a red. They did not didn't I want to understand and there are other reasons. People didn't like organs group many worried the lighthouse was so big and so old that it would break if he tried to move it. Others had said on feelings about the location of the lighthouse. They said, lose historical value in a new spot
and then there were also some big money interests. Business owners and real estate developers thought a move would hurt their bottom line. If you own something, but the name like a light a few motel and then people The lighthouse out of you can see the problem throughout the Eightys and Ninetys. There are lots of scientific committees, commission studies and reports. They all decided, moving. The lighthouse was the best idea, but that do much to convince the locals, except for these two local lighthouse historians, Bruce in Cheryl Roberts last year, I e Europe. Yeah Cheryl wasn't around. When I met Bruce, she was busy, working on a new lighthouse book, my wife does most the running and I take pictures alight, houses actually photographed almost every. The lighthouse, Bruce and Cheryl have basically turn their home into a shrine for lighthouses. I've got over a huh
lighthouse books, there's a bunch of miniature lighthouses scattered about. I see count. Slight house, paintings and pictures and in their staff There's a giant three panel room divided. It looks like one of us. Japanese screens only it's gotta, keep him, arrests lighthouse painted on it the loose. About a lighthouse. I think that lit dumb, special and politically Hatteras as the best, but no one back at the time of the controversy but in were writing a book about the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, that's when they started to do some research. We had read the reports that lighthouse would be lost and we talk to some other, The scientists who have studied this and made an interesting discovery. The scientists told That's a lighthouse, sits on yellow pine timbers, their submerged in a pool of fresh water
It's a strange design. The builder who constructed the lighthouse knew that if he kept, those beams in fresh water, they'd be preserved and his plan had worked for over a hundred years, but here's the problem. The ocean was coming closer and closer to the lighthouse and the ocean. Filled with micro organisms that could degrade the wood. If this dont water seat into their foundation. The beams would raw, and that was the reason that Sharon I realise that the term, if nothing else happened. Lighthouse will begin, the Tipp, as that would foundation the way we actually went and talk to us of all of the scientists who had signed the study, saying it They be moved and we got them they knew what they were doing and it could be done. This was a huge gap for team move. The lighthouse Bruce. Cheryl, weren't, technocratic outsiders. There were lighthouse fanatics, they were saying, look like it or not the science. Sir actually right
then in nineteen. Ninety six, two major hurricanes hit North Carolina Hurricane Birth and working for North Carolina and Ocracoke Island and had our asylum under an evaluation mandate. Hurricanes were becoming more frequent and more intense, and this could It had a new sense of urgency, so and he ninety seven Congress started planning a potential move. So ten years after save the lighthouse formed and after almost two decades of debate, public meeting was held to discuss the move. It was organ I buy a: U S, senator from North Carolina as well as a state senator from the region. It was. From my tea. Ninety eight. Four hundred people filed internet aquarium, the lark building in the outer banks, children bustin from every school. There are eleven new screws, their reporting on the event could people of Buxton you?
the fate of the lighthouse, might be decided here today, at their move it or lose it signs in the elves like save, not move. Guy came up to me. Grab me by the arms and here's your sticker, and I looked at it is said, move it or lose it all that damn sticker politicians and their aids watched as people got up to testify for each side every time somebody said something that was done facial to their side day with her up cheers like yours, some, the Roman Colosseum, with a budget gladiators in Bruce who was there, along with Danny thought, the crowd was clearly against the lighthouse I felt We're gonna lose Bruce Wayne, back home feeling defeated. He was convinced Congress was not going to fund the move, and I think that that day or two
I heard the phone bigamy back in went back and- and I heard him, As all your server nuclear, on a state senator Mark Bass night was on the other end of the phone he said before the meeting I supported, moving the lighthouse, but then I saw just how unpopular that was, and now I dont think I can do it and I said: wait a minute here. Cheryl. Do you know about that timber? That's the foundation and the danger of its collapsing. He said no, I wouldn't mark. You should not be making a decision in this matter. You need to listen more to the fact. Cheryl told the senator about the pine boards in the salt water. She told him if we move it. The lighthouse might just fall over and he is listen to her our the hair, and you want em over kid. I had to be open. He had known fact
This was the critical moment. Cheryl got the senator back on board and he urged Congress to act fast. A few months later, Congress funded the moon in a last ditch effort, the local county suit, but they lost. It was a stinging reminder that, even though it may have felt like Buxton Lighthouse, it wasn't, it belonged to the federal government. It's an exciting morning here, we're alive a Cape Hatteras word. I have all sorts. The mood began on June, seventeen nineteen nineteen, I over two hundred journalists, swarmed Buxton, because nothing like this had ever happened before. No one had picked up a forty eight hundred tonnes lighthouse and moved it over half a mile people called it. The moon
of the millennium make sure data of a raw material from the trough. Your hearing from a documentary moved by a looking tv station already there had been keen hundred visitors to the hard this morning. That's about double what they usually see coming here at this time of year. The pork service put an Orange Spencer, the base of the lighthouse tourists lined up along it? Local soul M T, shirts and hot dogs, as everyone waited anxiously right when you say about the lighthouse. What do you think about it? it sure is big. Then a move that can they picked it up. I mean it is having a very depressed. It was pretty simple. First, the engineers cut through the granite base of the lighthouse than they, seven giant steel themes. The beams created a new foundation, a grid under
lighthouse harsher at forty four and they ruled wheels under the steel grid and using hydraulics had lifted the whole thing up onto a track leading to the houses. New watch now go back. The engineers were already the role they pulled I ain't lever and I have started to each form if you were there that day in the ground, this all would have looked like The rangers had but markers along the track and shows could be How is it can you you couldn't even town the Rangers, but markers along the track, and just so you can be sure that it did in fact
at the end of the first day. The lighthouse only move ten feet, this process would take weeks. I feel I am slowly but surely Bruce remember showing up one day near the end of the move. He saw Danny coming towards him through the crowd, Danny told him they're moving it too fast. I'm stones ass. Well, what's wrong with going too fast, he says: look every restaurant is major money. Every hotel us making money- we have never had roused like this ever before, and he said if you just slow it down until September we'll all be rich. Slow down, slow down
This delay how's institute's to its new home again was again sixteen hundred feet from shore the exact same distance. It was in eighteen. Seventy before the scene wash the beach away before the new but in a strange way things actually worked out for them. I look back at this. You know, after this is of towners were destroying the heart and soul of their island. The community fought hard and they lost in a strange way, things actually worked out for them. I look back it is you know after this is all said and done moving their lighthouse, the right thing to do this, it was and he got a ton of business from the tourists he's repair shop. In gas station had never done so well, so we had a complete change of heart and is not alone. In fact, most people think that the was the best thing that ever happened to Buxton some
his monumental was moving. America's lighthouse put us on a national rate are on an international radar, and people started thing about the outer banks. It was a Aging success. Danny, doesn't look back now and see the move as a cowardly retreat. He sees it as testament to human ingenuity. This all, Ex organ hopeful use of data You can change his views, maybe it well to arise. The moving the light ass with a profound event in terms of our response the failure of. I think that came out of my house it, is kind of a good example of what was be doing a lot in the future. If you can move three thousand whatever it is a as you can move alot of, but it's not. You lighthouses in beach cottages. There thousands of miles of vulnerable. U S coastline! The battle of bucks in is,
two preview of the tough choices will have to make. We have three thousand miles a barrier shoreline, so whatever happens here is also opinion, Galveston and also his hat renewed Myrtle Beach and am Jacqueline Georgia and though, I'm gonna be asking for money from the FED that we need money. We need money, we need to nurse the beach or we need to. We need help going to stay while, but it it ain't got to be there. That's why retreat is important. But the you twenty one hundred at least five hundred. U S communities will be at risk from sea level rise, including major cities like Miami in New Orleans bicycle Into the union of concern scientists, and then there is the millions of people and other parts of the world in countries like Bangladesh. Or the Solomon Islands that are already being badly affected. If people get this war about a lighthouse, imaginary hard will be. When we start talking about moving entire cities,
How can you do that fairly and in a way that doesn't devastated communities, we're going to be fighting this battle over and over again and after all of this, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse will probably have to move again it might ass one hundred years at its current location but some scientists say it could be even less we have another high stakes: story of a building be moved this time. All the people
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Guadalajara, Mexico and requested is here to tell us about so back in line Fifty city officials in Guadalajara decided to widen a major avenue to accommodate more traffic, and a lot of buildings were just demolished make way, but there is a problem: there is this one? Seventeen hundred turn brick structure occupied by the Mexican Telephone and telegraph company needs more Gallo, Hideel Anti WAR company at the left, one guy equally, that Africa Mahicanni. So why not demolish this building along with the rest, the billions it demolish when they were in the street will it would have been more expensive of, but it also would have knocked out regional telephone service for at least a week hooker, and that's where or hear materials comes then he's. The civil engineering is the dean of the city's university and he has idea to move the building while leaving everything wired up and keeping the operators at work inside it but that has been made.
Pretty nervous, yeah and end materials was was definitely sympathetic to that and he wanted to reassure the operators and make them feel safe. So his wife as broader agreed on so go into the building while it was being moved and she even took along their seven year old son. One Jorge My duty Roma citizens Python, but here's this lovely clip of his widow talking about the move on television news in town sash. Now my dear heart have made me up by an act that confusion he again, give almost no session. There may be no more of a man, so she said, She and her son, one Jorge we're inside the building to gain their trust and they even feel the tiniest movement when they move the whole building and all the operators inside it, but so cool yeah and into basically it all went really well. The building slowly shifted about forty feet to its new location and the other people inside
then feel a thing and kept working and the whole move was done just five days, with no interruption to phone service, very critical and on a budget around a hundred thousand dollars, which was a fraction of what it would have cost demolish the structure and then build some replacement and so this was about Helen, but seventy years ago. Okay, so the building is it. Though there is along this new widen road. It is an today, rainbows has a pretty unique memorial statue right outside the building its this life, size figure him and they actually position it. So it looks like he's physically pushing the structure by hand. So go yeah next, to that sculpture. Of course, there's a plaque dedicated to his civil service and engineering genius fantastic. It really is in special thanks it tomorrow for sending their endeavours to really need story and exhibit of the move and images of that cool statue of what moose on our website, its nine p, I org.
Ninety nine percent of dispute with Greece is Gordon Catholic and same fan of cited. Comcast at sea I d, like an academic citation story about research and higher education in finding work. Cited podcast dotcom social thanks to MIKE bore Phil, Evans and stuff. Other meetings thanks also to double, Or a l tv for living as user documentary, the Cape light away from the edge, you can find a link to the full programme on our website from our staff. Is peace was policing but Lady Hall mix intact production by Sharif Use if music by shown me I'll, get it is our senior police are critical stance. Is the digital director rested, staff includes a ritual emit Fitzgerald, turn medicine and me roman Mars. Their product than any one point. Seventy two be resumed Cisco, introduced on radio row in beautiful, downtown, Oakland. California,
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.