The U.S. Coast Guard is using the recent power surge that darkened Oak Island Lighthouse to spur already planned upgrades to the beacon that serves mariners at the mouth of the Cape Fear, North Carolina’s largest and busiest river.
Electric power surges about three weeks ago burned out the motor that rotated the four lamps responsible for providing the light “signature” with four blinks across ten seconds, then a six-second delay.
The lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation, so Coast Guard members are working to get it back in action. Petty Officer First Class Christopher Fuentes said the Coast Guard has been working on upgrading the beacon for more than a year.
“We’ve wanted to go to LED lighting,” Fuentes said. “It kind of speeded things up.”
Crews have been disassembling the old lights, painting, and generally sprucing up the beacon area. They have also rewired the lighthouse to accommodate the direct current LEDs, which are being tested at the Coast Guard’s headquarters in New London, Connecticut.
Fuentes said he hoped the new lights would be available in the next couple of weeks, but the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted everyone’s schedules. If the lights are not going to be readily available soon, he said the Coast Guard intends to install a temporary beacon.
“We really care about this lighthouse and we know other people do too,” said Fuentes.