The landscape of North Carolina’s Outer Banks might look much different today if the government had proceeded in the late 1940s with a U.S. Navy proposal of prospective sites to test nuclear bombs. In fact, it is highly likely that the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, America’s tallest, along with the Ocracoke Lighthouse, and, perhaps, some other lighthouses in the region would not have escaped damage or possible destruction with a nuclear blast.
In a report named “Project Nutmeg” it was stated, “In this region, population is not dense, meteorology is favorable during two-thirds of the year between 20% and 30% of the time; and the waters of the Gulf Stream will remove waste products to the open Atlantic Ocean with no possibility of second order effects through biological processes.”
One of the prime locations considered for a nuclear blast was Cape Hatteras. The report stated, “Cape Hatteras is a possible site for nuclear tests. It is relatively accessible by water, yet could be easily placed ‘out of bounds for security control.’” As far as Ocracoke Island was concerned, the government report stated, “There are but one or two installations on this island, except the little village of Ocracoke on the southwest end of Ocracoke Inlet.”
Fortunately, because of the estimated delays projected for the acquisition of private property and the relocating of entire communities of people, the government’s plan for aboveground and underground nuclear testing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina was quashed in favor of land in Nevada that the federal government already owned.
Today, instead of a vast wasteland, the beaches of the Outer Banks of North Carolina and its historic lighthouses continue to be popular with tourists from around the world.
This story appeared in the
May/Jun 2021 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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