Thursday, June 07, 2007

Point Wilson

Lighthouses should have wheels. This one was built on the northern edge of a spit at the mouth of Admiralty Inlet, the better to be seen by ships returning to Puget Sound. But like so many spits, this one is moving, and the lighthouse is in danger of being left behind. A fortress of rock, rebuilt as recently as last year, protects the building, but doesn't stop the spit's inexorable southern march. The rock now buries the beach - 100 years ago we could have walked the beach around the point on sand at high tide, but now we can barely do it at a low tide. What a mess it will be in 50 more!

Montauk, Cape Hatteras, Morris Island. Point Wilson isn't the only lighthouse that has suffered from an injudicious geologic location. Afterall, lighthouses are built in such locations for very good reasons. Some have eventually thrown themselves into the sea; some have abandoned the land and now stand offshore, marking a point that was once dry; some have surrounded themselves with rock until the lighthouse is less a landmark than the rockpile. And some lighthouses (some much bigger and more fragile than this one) have simply picked up their stuff and moved back from the edge.

Point Wilson isn't going away. It isn't even moving very fast. If the lighthouse and the other structures were 100 feet or so farther south (which the shape of the point allows), the rock could be removed, the beach restored, and the lighthouse's life extended hundreds of years. Its position near the tip of the spit would be maintained and the view of the lighthouse from Fort Worden changed only slightly. Its relocation would be relegated to a historic footnote and a credit to our foresight. Or we can pile on more rock.

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