artifacts below are from two places -- The Graveyard of the Atlantic
museum in Hatteras, and the museum at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
of the Atlantic museum houses artifacts from several different shipwrecks,
but to me, the most impressive display is that of the original Lens
from the 1854 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The "First Order
Fresnel Lens" is the largest type of Fresnel Lens, made up
of more than a thousand glass prisms which bend the light into a
narrow beam. This beam could be seen as far as 20 miles off the
coast of NC.
At the onset
of the Civil War, the Confederates removed all the lenses from the
lighthouses so as to hamper any Union attacks from the sea. The
Cape Hatteras Lens, removed in 1861, remained hidden throughout
the civil war, but afterward was shipped back to Paris for repairing.
Once it was repaired, it was returned to the United States and housed
in the Lighthouse Depot on Staten Island to await placement, once
again, in a lighthouse. Until 2002, we didn't know which United
States lighthouse received the orginal Cape Hatteras Lens. Through
research, author and historian Kevin Duffus was able to compile
a short list of lighthouses that were possibilities. One of these
lighthouses worried him, for he knew the fate of the lens that was
housed there. Upon further research, however, he discovered that
the lens had been placed back at Cape Hatteras in 1871. It was,
unfortunately, in this very lighthouse which Kevin Duffus hoped
the lens had not been placed, because he knew that years ago vandals
had climbed the lighthouse with sledge hammers and screwdrivers
in hand and
destroyed most of the prisms of the lens. The original lens and clockwork
pedestal have since been removed from the lighthouse and preserved,
in its damaged state, in the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum. We
were lucky enough to have Kevin Duffus come and speak with us at this
NCCAT seminar, and when asked why the lens wasn't restored for display,
he responded that he thought it was important that we learn to preserve
these artifacts from our history, and I have to agree with him. The
sight of this beautiful lens missing most of its prisms can hopefully
help teach us this lesson.
is a scale model of the USS Monitor, which was sunk by bad weather
during the Civil War.
our tour of the unfinished Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, we were
lucky enough to be given a "backstage tour", in which we
saw many artifacts collected from shipwrecks and shores of the NC
Coast. Once the museum is completed, these artifacts will have a home
where they can be viewed by the public.
World War II, German U-boats were a major threat to the Allied war
effort. These German submarines carried the "Enigma" machine
-- an encryption machine which made it possible for the German armed
forces to communicate without fear of their codes being deciphered
by the enemy. The Allied forces' only hope was to capture the Enigma
machine, and the machine used to decipher its codes. The machines
above were excavated from a German U-boat sunk off the coast of NC,
and were important in "turning the tides" in World War II.
It wasn't until the Enigma machines were obtained that the Allied
forces were able to intercept German communications and mount an effective
resistance to the U-boats. Until that point, the Allied forces were
on the verge of losing the war.
is one of several monuments placed around the parking lot of the
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. This particular one is a monument
to the USS Monitor. Its inscription says:
In the age-old
battle of man against the sea, the USS Monitor, en route
to Beaufort, North Carolina under tow by the USS Rhode Island,
foundered in a gale sixteen miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras
at approximately 1:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, 1862.
had left behind us, one more treasure to the priceless store which
the Ocean so jealously hides. The Cumberland and Congress went
first; the little boat that avenged their loss has followed; in
both noble souls have gone down. Their names are for history;
and as long as we remain a people, so long will the work of the
Monitor be remembered, and her story told to our children’s
M. Weeks, Surgeon USS Monitor
submarine hatch cover is from the German U-boat U-85 sunk by the USS
Roper on April 14, 1942.The U-85 lies upright on the ocean floor at
a depth of approximately 100 feel and is a popular site for sport