The Lighthouse That Moved Away From The Sea.

20th April
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The Strangest Thing I Ever Saw While Travelling Competition Entry.

My reason for being on Nantucket Island was that, when I was twelve, I had read a children's novel set there. I had been sufficiently captivated by Night Birds On Nantucket, by the late Joan Aiken, that I'd promised myself that I'd visit the place myself someday and, thirty seven years later, I did.

In the nineteenth century, Nantucket had been known as the whaling capital of the world and the novel featured such unlikely creations as a pink whale and a gigantic supergun capable of firing a cannonball across the Atlantic Ocean with the intention of killing the British King in Buckingham Palace. Even after indulging in some of the local beer, Whale's Tale Pale Ale, I didn't see any pink whales or weapons of monarchical destruction. What I did see, though, while in a state of total sobriety, was a lighthouse moving across the ground, apparently of its own accord.
 
On the outskirts of Siasconset village, at the eastern end of the island, stood Sankaty Head Lighthouse, where the protagonists of Night Birds had been briefly imprisoned in the novel before escaping and saving the King's life. The book's illustrations accurately portrayed its design and cliff edge location, but, as I approached it, I became increasingly convinced that it was doing something that lighthouses tend not to do, even in children's novels. It was moving, slowly, almost imperceptibly, but unquestionably.

As I drew closer, the presence of safety helmeted workmen and heavy lifting exp-the-lighthouse-that-moved-away-from-the-sea.pngequipment reassured me that I wasn't witnessing a supernatural phenomenon or suffering some post Whale's Tale Pale Ale hallucinations. There was a perfectly logical, if strange, explanation. As a result of coastal erosion, the lighthouse had become at risk of falling into the sea. A team of engineers, therefore, was in the process of shifting it inland to a safer place. This was being done by transporting the entire structure, very carefully, on rails, for about 100 yards, without dismantling it. This might sound almost as far fetched as the pink whale and transatlantic cannonball regicide attempt of Night Birds On Nantucket, but that was the day I saw a lighthouse moving away from the sea.

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