Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hunting Island State Park Light House: Interview with current “Lighthouse Keeper,” Hank Carden

Click here for this series’ table of contents

I’ve visited Hunting Island’s famous lighthouse before. Several times before, in fact. But never felt energetic enough to climb to the top. Well, this visit I was determined to do just that.

Standing over 132 feet above the ground, with I-can’t-remember-how many steps, that’s no casual undertaking for an ElderHiker. This ElderHiker, anyway. But temptation overruled caution. I paid my $2.00 climbing fee. And hiking staff in hand, mounted the steps.

I made it! Quite easily. The climb wasn’t bad at all. This lighthouse was made to climb, come to think of it.

Sometimes while carrying 50 pounds of lamp oil in one hand!

With a comfortably designed stairway, blessed with nine landings for those of us who might want to rest a moment along the way.

These landings, by the way, each have an informational plaque. They’re all worth reading. With just enough text to provide an excuse to linger a while …. So don’t speed by in your zeal to reach the top.

The view of the beach from the observation platform at the top, as you might expect, is spectacular.

But that’s not all. Move around to the other side of the observation platform for an unusual view of South Carolina’s coastal forest. From the top down! A pair of binoculars would be nice about now ….

And look at this. It’s not a telescope. No magnification. Instead, look through and you’ll see the original location of this lighthouse. Over a mile away. Out in the water now. It was moved in 1889. We’ll learn more about that in a moment.

If you want to learn more about this remarkable facility you can buy one of the many books that have been written on it. Some of them quite good. But none of them cheap.

Or, you can climb the lighthouse, pay close attention the informational signs, and study the exhibits on the lighthouse grounds.

But to learn even more, take a moment to chat with the folks selling tickets. They are the current “lighthouse keepers.” Volunteers all.

During this visit I caught up with one of the current Keepers, Hank Carden. In a weak moment Hank agreed to do a short interview. “It’ll only take five minutes, Hank,” I assured him. Well …. You know how that goes.

Hank turned out to be an ideal guide to the Lighthouse. He insisted before the interview that he was no “lighthouse expert.” But as you’ll hear below, he has just the right combination of technical background, knowledge of the facility, and ability to explain things clearly. Further, he’s a “natural” in front of a microphone.

As usual, we began with a personal introduction, including Hank’s career up to retirement. He understands how the things he’s explaining actually work! And, when necessary, can even fix most of them.

I then asked Hank how he and his wife happened to come all the way to Hunting Island from Fowler, Indiana. And about how they’ve adapted to living full-time in an RV. Hank explained that he’s “living his dream.”

By then, well more than five minutes had elapsed, so I asked about the Lighthouse, and what he and his wife do while on duty. Come to find out, together with another couple, they even do the cleaning, inside and out, as well as sell the tickets.

That involves morning and evening climbs to the top, to open and close the doors and windows. A task Hank said his wife undertakes.

Hank also described the Lighthouse visitors. As many as 400 a day can visit during the busy summer months!

Come to find out, the Friends of Hunting Island group has assumed major responsibilities for Lighthouse upkeep. Repainting the whole facility in 2009, and even providing the maintenance staff that keeps the place as spic ‘n span as a military installation. The $2.00 climbing fee goes directly to support their work.

We closed our conversation with some details about the operation of the Lighthouse, and an explanation of how it was moved from its original location to here in 1889. Can you believe that work was done in only 4 months!

Thanks again, Hank Carden, for your contribution of time and expertise to the CarolinaConsidered Project.


Some readers have written to say their browsers don’t show the embedded audio links properly. Here are direct links to them. I’ll try to remember to include direct links at the bottom of future posts. Just click a link below and a new window will open with your default player. Be patient. It may take Libsyn, the audio file host, a few seconds to send you the sound.






Click here for the next post, a walk along the Lagoon Access Recreation Trail


  1. Nice pictures of the staircase. They don't get the credit they deserve, beautifully constructed. What a view!