Through the US/ICOMOS internship programme for 2003, I spent my summer (from mid May to the second half of August) with the National Park Service, Outer Banks Group, at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina. My work was based on three main sites, the Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island Lighthouses and the Hatteras Island Weather Bureau Station.
I began work in Washington, DC without having set foot in any lighthouse – ever – seeking the source of the marble and slate tiling in the Cape Hatteras (1870) and Bodie Island (built 1872) Lighthouses at the monumental National Archives.
My first task upon arrival on the Outer Banks of North Carolina was to put together our assessed condition of the tiled floor area of Bodie Island Lighthouse, and complete a report detailing our research findings as part of the preparation for future conservation works.
As part of my work I was fortunate enough to be able to climb Bodie Island Lighthouse twice and also observe the laser-measuring of the original first order Fresnel lens. This began my mission to climb the lighthouses of the Outer Banks. Of the five lighthouses on the Outer and Core Banks of North Carolina, I got to all of them and was only denied access to one!
A large part of my internship was taken up by the National Register-listed Hatteras Island Weather Bureau Station at Hatteras Village. A fantastic two-storey, Colonial Yellow siding and cedar shingled building built in 1901, it is currently being restored by the National Park Service (NPS). I was involved in documenting the restoration works for the building, which was not far from where I was housed by the National Park Service in the village of Buxton.
Venturing as far as Busch Gardens amusement park in Virginia, where Apollo’s Chariot dropped myself and friends 210ft in the first dip, I also drove north to Currituck Beach Lighthouse and Jockeys Ridge State Park (climbing the giant sand dune), and soared in a plane over the Wright Brothers Historic Site, which is celebrating 100yrs of flight in December.
There were also quieter things to do, especially with the beach next door. There was also the small village of Ocracoke (and Ocracoke Lighthouse), the village where Blackbeard met his gruesome end, I learned about the Civil War through 11hrs of my housemate’s Ken Burn’s videos (we didn’t have cable), discovered the local nightspots (well….. the one nightspot aptly named the Lighthouse Bar), and cruised the Sound with my workmates from Manteo.
I had a fantastic three months, and as a result I am also taking away with me some really fun memories and experiences (oh yes, and over 600 digital photographs….) and am still in touch with my new friends. I’ve taken away with me not just new skills and knowledge, but a better understanding of heritage in broader terms, of other approaches and different situations, with a particular appreciation for how severe environmental factors can impact on historic sites (I just missed hurricane Isabel, which wreaked havoc on the Outer Banks).
I would like to once again thank Australia ICOMOS for selecting me as their representative, and US/ICOMOS for such an amazing opportunity. I thoroughly recommend the programme to anyone thinking of applying and would be more than happy to provide further information for anyone who might be interested.