Lighthouse stripes help guide ships around the world

The United States has more than one thousand lights protecting ships and shores. There are the classic lighthouses, light towers, range lights, and pier lights. In the late 19th century, the Lighthouse Board assigned each lighthouse in the U.S. a distinctive color pattern. The paint pattern (horizontal or stripes) is the day-mark and the light sequence of the colors (white, black, red) is the night-mark. This differentiation in day-mark and night-mark helps mariners to recognize the specific lighthouses from others in an area as they sailed along the coast.

For example, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, received its famous black and white spiral pattern in 1873. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse protects one of the most hazardous sections of the Atlantic Coast. The area around the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Hundreds of ships have wrecked in this region because of the convergence the Gulf Stream with the Virginia Drift, a branch of the Labrador Current from Canada, making the waters treacherous.

The Bodie Lighthouse, also on the Outer Banks, has a distinctive horizontal pattern of black and white stripes. These markings distinguished it for mariners from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse 42 miles away.

Now that you know about the differences in markings keep your eye out for lighthouses as you travel along the coastlines.

OBX Bodie Lighthouse

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