Pounding waves slowly advanced toward the Gay Head Lighthouse in Aquinnah,
Massachusetts, USA. By 2013, 158 years after its construction, the structure on the
island of Martha’s Vineyard was just 46 feet ( 14 meters) from a cliff above the Atlantic Ocean. When the Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Advisory Committee announced
a project in 2013 to move the 400-ton lighthouse 135 feet ( 41. 1 meters) inland to
sturdier ground, the organization knew time was running out—and it turned to project managers to plan the delicate move.
After more than US$3 million was raised, the project team moved into the execution phase in April 2015. Workers spent weeks carefully digging under the lighthouse to
install dozens of hydraulic jacks and a supporting network of wood-and-steel beams.
After lifting the structure about six feet ( 1. 8 meters), the team had to nudge it at
a snail’s pace along soap-lathered steel rails over three days. The slow speed—about
1 foot (0.3 meters) per minute—prevented bricks from cracking, which would have
caused catastrophic structural damage. The project was completed 30 May 2015—
and the lighthouse should be safe for another 150 years.
PROJECT: Gay Head Lighthouse Relocation
COST: US$3.4 million
THE MOVE: 135 feet ( 41. 1 meters) over three days
BENEFIT: The Gay Head Lighthouse will evade
erosion for at least another 150 years.
“From the earth-moving to the engineering,
it represents months—if not years—of
planning to get to this stage.”
—Richard Pomroy, project manager, to WBUR-FM radio station
The lighthouse at its
new, safer distance