The Oak Island Lighthouse was completed in 1958. It was once the second brightest light in the world. The total cost of construction was $110,000.00 (it would be millions of dollars today!).
The lights are 169 feet above the water. The structure is 148 feet tall, but it stands on a slight hill.
There is no spiral staircase as are found in most older lighthouses, but instead there is a series of ships ladders with a total of 131 steps to the lantern gallery level.
The base is set upon 24 concrete-filled steel pilings 10 3/4 inches in diameter and 67 feet deep. The pilings are capped by a 30 foot wide by 3 foot deep octagonal concrete base upon which the tower structure was built.
The main tower is 128 feet tall, built of monolithic reinforced concrete. It was poured continuously into a movable form that was raised by jacks at the rate of one foot per hour.
To accomplish this task a concrete mixing plant was set up on the site to allow for the continuous 24 hour a day operation for days.
The tower has a uniform inside diameter of 16 feet 4 3/4 inches. The wall is 8 inches thick, and the three stripe color pattern is permanently cast into the concrete.
To establish a color for each section the first forty feet is the natural gray of Portland cement. The next fifty feet was poured with white Portland cement and white quartz aggregate for the white color. The top fifty two feet is gray Portland cement with black coloring.
The smaller diameter concrete section at the top was formed with stationary metal forms after the top floor was poured. Windows in the tower were constructed of stainless steel but sashes have been replace with vinyl.
The 11 foot tall aluminum lantern housing was installed by Marine Corps helicopters. Total height of the structure above the foundation slab is 153 feet.
The characteristic flashing pattern for the light is four one-second flashes every 10 seconds.
The lighting apparatus in the Oak Island Lighthouse is made up of 8 aero beacon lighting fixtures, 4 on top and 4 on the bottom.
When first activated in 1958, the lower bank used carbon-arc mercury lamps in 36-inch reflectors. These reflectors with their housings were adapted from aircraft spotlights used in World War II.
When these lamps were in use the Oak Island light was the second brightest in the world. When the upper bank of lights, comprising of 24 inch theatrical lights and 1,000 watt Quartz lamps became the primary beacon and the bottom were decommissioned, it lost that distinction!
Today the brightest light along this part of the Atlantic coast is the Sullivan’s Island Light near Charleston, South Carolina which was erected in 1962.
Free tours are given on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 AM till 2 PM starting on the Wednesday before Memorial Day until the Wednesday After Labor Day. Tours are to the 2nd level ONLY.
· Weekly seasonal tours are only to the 2nd level of the tower, NOT to the observation balcony at the top!
· Children MUST be 7 years or older to enter the lighthouse due to government safety regulations.
· No more than 15 visitors will be allowed inside the tower at any time.
· Visitors are requested not to wear flip-flops, high heels, open-toed or hard leather heels/soles. Sneakers are the preferred shoes.
· Climbers are required to have both hands free for climbing due to the steepness of our steps. No exceptions will be made!
· Weather permitting (visitors are not allowed in the lighthouse if there is lightning in the area)
· There are no Restroom facilities on site
· All tours are free of charge