PBS Show Spotlights Martha’s Vineyard Lighthouse Move

Gay Head - 2

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: Gay Head Light on Aquinnah

AQUINNAH – The Gay Head Lighthouse on Aquinnah is getting its moment on screen.

PBS’s popular science show NOVA airs an episode Wednesday night about how the 160-year old beacon was moved intact last May using hydraulic jacks and a network of wood and steel beams.

“Operation Lighthouse Rescue” follows as officials race to save the 52-foot-high, 400-ton structure, which serves as a waypoint for mariners navigating the treacherous shoal near the island’s famous clay cliffs. The lighthouse was moved about 134 feet inland.

“It’s a story of a race against time as the folks on the Vineyard were trying to save this lighthouse from toppling into the ocean,” said NOVA Producer Chris Schmidt.

Gay Head Light - 3The episode features interviews from Len Butler, a longtime island resident who helped lead a $3 million fundraising effort for the project, and Jerry Matyiko, a seasoned lighthouse mover whose team conducted the move over a series of days, among others.

Schmidt said the move was extremely complex.

“They had to fully excavate the lighthouse and jack it up on a complicated series of supports, and then rolled it about 160 feet directly back away from the cliff,” he said.

The Gay Head Light has been in operation for nearly two centuries in helping sailors navigate away from deadly rocks and lethal shoals.

View a segment from the NOVA program here:

The NOVA program will also examine the geology of Martha’s Vineyard, following Byron Stone from the U.S. Geological Society, whose studies of the bluff’s patterns of land loss and soil composition helped determine the best point for the relocation.

“Operation Lighthouse Rescue” airs at 9 p.m. on PBS and will also be available for viewing on demand.

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