Bodie Island Lighthouse, circa 1871

by Carrie Frye | Photography by Robyn Gentile

DSC01532Deemed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” the precarious waters off the coastline of the Outer Banks have claimed many a ship. The plights of sea captains and lost ships prompted the U.S. government to deploy Lieutenant Napoleon L. Coste to North Carolina in 1837 to scope out the perfect location for another beacon of light to complement that offered by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Once the site was secured, a decade of delays and faulty construction left the initial Bodie Island Lighthouse leaning and abandoned in 1859. The second lighthouse constructed on the site, although stable, was imploded by Confederate forces to keep it out of the Union’s control during the Civil War in 1861.
These coastal waters remained dark for another decade until the third commissioned lighthouse was set for construction on a 15-acre parcel north of the inlet, purchased for a mere $150 in 1871. Equipped with a Fresnel lens in late 1872 within its black lantern iron top, this brick and stone structure was painted with black and white bands and stands 170 feet tall.

Having survived wind, rain and hurricanes, Bodie Island, pronounced “body” for the name of the original landowners, is not actually on an island, but instead four miles north of Oregon Inlet.

Electrified in 1932, the Bodie Island Light Station is one of only a dozen remaining brick towers, and it still serves as a navigational aid.
Renovations completed in 2013 provided for the lighthouse’s structural integrity for years to come. Visitors who flock to the Outer Banks to climb its 214 steps spirally to the top have a bird’s eye view of the inlet and Cape Hatteras National Seashore.