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lighthouse Legendary Lighthouses  Geography: South Atlantic PBS Online
 N. ATLANTIC  MAINE  S. ATLANTIC  W. GREAT LAKES  CALIFORNIA  PACIFIC N. W.
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Geography: South Atlantic

The South Atlantic coastline from the northern border of South Carolina through the southern tip of the Florida Keys is one of the most dangerous coastal regions of the United States. The South Atlantic coast is distinguished by its sand bars, shoals, rip tides, and reefs. These particularly treacherous hazards are as stealthy and changing as the shifting sands themselves. Therefore, the lighthouses of the South Atlantic are not welcoming lights, but lights of warning. The coastline is unpredictable, ever changing, and tremendously difficult for navigators. 

Responding to the gradually rising sea level of the past several thousand years, barrier island systems have migrated westward. Hatteras Island is no exception. This migration occurs as storm-driven ocean tides wash completely over the islands, moving sand sediments toward the sound shoreline. Because of this migration, barrier islands are among the most unstable land masses on the face of the earth. The Cape Hatteras area is known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" because of two strong crossing currents. The cold Labrador Stream from the north and the warm Gulf Stream from the Caribbean collide off the South Atlantic coast to create these dangerous currents. 

The Florida Keys were one of the most dangerous sealanes and numerous ships perished in the narrow strait between the Gulf Stream and the Florida Reef. The area became a prosperous resource for "wreckers" and pirates. 

As a result of these numerous shipwrecks caused by the dangerous shifting ocean waters, warning signals were very important to the navigators of the South Atlantic. Lighthouses were warning lights commonly built on rocky cliffs at the shoreline. These lights guided ships through the labyrinth of barrier islands along the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia. At the southernmost tip of the United States, around the Florida Keys, lighthouses steered cargo ships from the Atlantic ocean into the Gulf of Mexico. 

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Legendary Lighthouses is co-produced by Driftwood Productions Inc. and WPSX-TV/Penn State
Executive Producer John Grant