Legendary Lighthouses: Geography-North Atlantic
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lighthouse Legendary Lighthouses  Geography: North Atlantic PBS Online
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GEOGRAPHY OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC

 

The waters of the North Atlantic coast are a superhighway for ships. During the past two centuries, lighthouses which served as the signs, signals, and direction for this crowded superhighway of water, became very important to navigators along the East Coast of the United States. The marshy shorelines from Delaware to North Carolina create difficulties for navigators entering the coastal harbors, while the coast of New England is treacherous to mariners with its rocky offshore islands and gusts of ocean winds. These northern shores are, however, breathtakingly beautiful to visitors on shore. For naturalists, these coasts are the home to many species of wildlife including black back sea gulls and harbor seals.

Further south toward the Chesapeake Bay, the waters of the North Atlantic become unpredictable with shallow waters and shifting shoals. These shores are dotted with forests and sandy beaches which create a pleasant environment with comfortable seclusion and protection from the ocean winds. This area of the Chesapeake Bay is the gateway to the harbors of the colonies and the large cities that exist along the East Coast today. Navigating this marine highway through the 200 mile-long waterways of the Eastern Coast was facilitated by the construction of lighthouses.

Historically, navigation on the North Atlantic coast was essential to the survival and growth of the colonies. Some of the deepest coastal waters and steepest shores on the Eastern Coast are found on North Carolina’s Barrier Islands. These islands, also called the Outer Banks, are characterized by their beautiful and majestic sand dunes which provide protection for the inland coast.

Ships that navigate the North Atlantic Coast encounter many difficulties from rocky shores to marshy shores, and shallow waterways to deep coastal waters. However, viewed from the coast, these areas become calm, serene and beautiful. As our nation grew during the last two centuries, navigation along the Eastern Coast and through its labyrinth of waterways became essential. The lighthouses in this region from New England to North Carolina served as the guides with their sounds and signals from the shore to the navigators of the North Atlantic.

 

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