Lightships had official designations such as " LV," " WAL," or " WVL" and were numbered sequentially according to the order of their construction, though when on duty each ship temporarily received the name of the hazardous region it protected. Vessels could be identified by color codes, lights, foghorn and radio signals, and large letters painted on their sides. These ships were built to sustain the severe pounding of the fierce storms and agitated waters of North Carolina's most feared shoals. Although some were sunk by weather and others by collision or Civil War engagements, most of the craft and their crews survived.
Many channels and shoals marked by the lightships gradually moved, and the need for these vessels subsequently diminished. Diamond Shoal and Frying Pan Shoal lightships were replaced by Texas-type light towers, and other areas were marked by buoys or fixed lights. These and other forms of technology eliminated the usefulness of lightships, and by the end of the twentieth century none were operating in North Carolina waters.
North Carolina Lightship Locations (with years of operation)
Brant Island (1831–63)
Cape Lookout Shoal (1905–33)
Diamond Shoal (1824–27 and 1897–1966)
Frying Pan Shoal (1854–1964)
Harbor Island (1836–61 and 1863–67)
Horseshoe Shoal (1851–70)
Long Shoal (1825–61 and 1864–67)
Neuse River (1828–62)
Nine Foot Shoal (1827–59)
Ocracoke Channel (1852–59)
Roanoke Island (1835–61)
Roanoke River (1835–61 and 1863–66)
Royal Shoal (1826–67)
Wades Point Shoal (1826–55)
Willard Flint, Lightships of the United States Government (1989).
Mina Lewiton, Lighthouses of America (1964).
David Stick, Graveyard of the Atlantic: Shipwrecks of the North Carolina Coast (1952).
Stick, North Carolina Lighthouses (1980).
Lighthouses: An Administrative History, National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/maritime/light/admin.htm
Lightships in the US, National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/maritime/ltshipnhltheme.htm
Lighthouse Service Uniforms: http://www.uscg.mil/history/uscghist/USLHS_Uniform_Index.asp
"Famous "Diamond" Lightship Stationed off Coast, Morehead City, N.C." ca. 1948 Image courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, UNC Libraries. Available from http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/nc_post&CISOPTR=1323&CISOBOX=1&REC=1 (accessed July 12, 2012).
1 January 2006 | Carr, Dawson V.