On a Tuesday morning in late October, Danish engineers engaged in a risky and costly rescue operation to move one of Denmark’s most beloved landmarks. The Rubjerg Knude Fyr lighthouse was first lit in 1900 and is the Danish north coast’s jewel and a national treasure. However, due to coastal erosion, engineers have said the tourist attraction needed to be relocated.
The 76-foot tall lighthouse was 656 feet away from the coast when first lit in 1900. Each year, the sand dune has been eroding by approximately two meters. Before the relocation, the lighthouse was just 20 feet away from plummeting into the ocean.
As a consequence, the local government contracted local engineers to try and save the structure.
Engineers drew up plans to move the 720-tonne lighthouse in a way that would not compromise its structural integrity. The idea was to move the structure 70 feet away from its original position.
The mayor of the Hjorring Municipality said that many things could go wrong when moving the now unmanned lighthouse, but deemed it a risk worth taking.
The lighthouse was switched off in 1968, and soon after, it was converted into a museum documenting the effects of sand drift. Still, the tower reportedly attracts up to 250,000 people per year.
It is positioned on a gigantic sand dune on the western island of Jutland, atop a cliff that is 200 feet above sea level. A church building has already been deconstructed due to coastal erosion in the same region.
Engineers, however, did not think dismantling the lighthouse would be the best way forward. Therefore, they decided that the building would have to be moved atop a set of rails. They inserted the beams into the base of the structure and lifted it. They kept it lifted atop of the tracks and moved it along with the help of hydraulic jacks.
The engineers expected the move to last ten hours because they could only move 26 feet per hour. However, the process went much faster. The engineers initially thought the lighthouse would weigh 1,000 tonnes and be harder to move, but once they began work they found out it only weighed 720 tonnes.
“We could not go faster than 12 meters an hour because they needed to calibrate the hydraulics. It’s in sand and you need to ensure it runs well on two rails,” local builder Kjeld Petersen, who assisted the engineers in the lighthouse operation told the BBC.
The lighthouse move cost the local government only US $750,000. The move had been planned for a year and a half, and the entire prepping and relocation took ten weeks. The engineers are confident that the lighthouse should not be in too much danger due to erosion for the next forty years.
Associated Press. “Danish Workers Moved a 120-Year-Old Lighthouse before It Could Topple over the Side of a Sand Dune Cliff.” Insider, Insider, 22 Oct. 2019, www.insider.com/denmark-moves-120-year-old-lighthouse-because-of-erosion-2019-10.
“Danish Rubjerg Lighthouse Moved Inland on Skates.” BBC News, BBC, 22 Oct. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50139900?ocid=socialflow_twitter.