Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2015

Black Gold Cape Hatteras

By Timothy Harrison


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Representatives from Standard Oil of New Jersey ...

Ever since North Carolina’s legislature budgeted over a half a million dollars to test potential sites throughout the state that might have the highest potential for hydraulic fracturing, memories of the oil drilling that took place by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and in the waters off the lighthouse have resurfaced.

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Aerial view of Standard Oil’s Esso Test Well No ...

Many people, especially lighthouse aficionados, have no idea that the area around one of America’s more popular and tallest lighthouses could have been surrounded by oil wells. In fact, there could have been so many oil wells constructed that they would have prevented the 1999 historic 2900-foot move of the lighthouse, a move that saved the lighthouse from toppling due to the eroding shoreline.

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Close-up view of the Esso No. 1 oil well and, at ...

It was back in 1945-1946 that Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, under its Esso brand name, drilled the Cape Hatteras Oil Well No. 1 to a depth of roughly 10,000 feet. They drilled the well about 1,700 feet southwest of the former location of the historic lighthouse. If they had struck black gold, oil wells would most likely have popped up all over the Outer Banks. Fortunately for all of us, Standard Oil and Esso drilled a dry well, and soon the days of the possible oil riches of the Outer Banks was forgotten by most and today not known by many. But the possibility of offshore drilling in the Graveyard of the Atlantic continues to this day.

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2015 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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