Danes try to move 120-year-old lighthouse from eroding coast

Danes try to move 120-year-old lighthouse from eroding coast
The Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse is being moved in Jutland, Denmark, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. A 120-year-old lighthouse has been put on wheels and rails to attempt to move it some 80 meters (263 feet) away from the North Sea, which has been eroding the coastline of northwestern Denmark. When the 23-meter (76 feet) tall Rubjerg Knude lighthouse was first lit, in 1990, it was roughly 200 meters (656 feet) from the coast; now it is only about 6 meters away. (Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A 120-year-old lighthouse has been put on wheels and rails to attempt to move it Tuesday some 80 meters (263 feet) away from the North Sea, which has been eroding the coastline of northwestern Denmark.

When the 23-meter (76 feet) tall Rubjerg Knude lighthouse was first lit, in 1900, it was roughly 200 meters (656 feet) from the coast; now it is only about 6 meters away.

Local mayor Arne Boelt said “many things can go wrong” when moving the defunct lighthouse, weighing about 1,000 tons and sitting atop a cliff 60 meters (200 feet) above sea level.

“But it’s worth the risk … the alternative would to dismantle the lighthouse.”

The move is expected to last 10 hours, at a speed of eight meters (26 feet) per hour.

Environment Minister Lea Wermelin has called the white, square lighthouse “a national treasure” to explain why ministry spent five million kroner ($747,000) to save it. Boelt and the town of Hjoerring also have chipped in to foot the bill.

The lighthouse ceased operating in 1968 and was briefly turned into a museum, including an exhibit about the structure’s struggle against sand drift.

In the end, it was closed because of shifting sands which slowly buried the two buildings adjacent to the lighthouse. The lighthouse, however, still gets more than 250,000 visitors each year.

The move, broadcast live on major Danish news outlets, depended on the weather, which was currently fair in the region. Thirty minutes into the operation, the lighthouse had been moved 1.4 meters.

The area is known for constantly shifting sands and an eroding coastline.

In 2008, a nearby church was dismantled to prevent it from falling into the sea. The Romanesque Maarup Church, built on a cliff around 1250, was picked for scenes in “Babette’s Feast,” which in 1987 became the first Danish film to win the Oscar for best foreign language film.