Cape Hatteras Lighthouse had stood for 130 years in Buxton, North Carolina but the US coast was eroding so fast it was unlikely to stand for another 10. When it was built it was 1,600ft (488m) from the ocean. By 1987 it was just 120ft (37m) away. Given its age and the fact that it is an American landmark in a National Park setting, overlooking the Diamond Shoals, something had to be done. After 10 years of extensive evaluation and battles over funding, the National Park Service decided in 1989 that the most cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way to preserve the lighthouse, including two keepers’ houses and three water cisterns, was to move the structures inland.

And so it was that the world’s tallest brick lighthouse, the 208ft (63.4m), 4,800 US ton Hatteras Lighthouse was jacked up off its foundations and transported 2,900ft (884m) on Hilman rollers to a safe inland position.

The granite base of the lighthouse was cut out and replaced with steel support towers equipped with hydraulic jacks. The lighthouse was then raised 2m by 100 hydraulic jacks and steel support beams were slid under to form a temporary foundation.

Five hydraulic push jacks nudged the load along a purpose-built roadway overlaid with steel mats. Once at its new location, where a concrete mat foundation had been poured, the lighthouse was lowered to the correct level and the temporary steel foundation was replaced with a structural brick infill. The journey took from 17 June to 9 July 1999.

The Cape Hatteras Light Station Relocation Project, to give its full name, was recognised as the rigging job of the year (in the over $750,000 category) at the Specialised Carriers & Rigging Association annual conference in Napa Valley, California in April.

The main lifting and shifting contractor, which received the award, was Expert House Movers. International Chimney was responsible for cutting the structure from its foundations. (For further details of this project, including an animation of the move, see Competing against Expert House Movers at the SC&RA was Ather of Mexico, with the installation of a 400t reactor at the CISA plant last October, using a 1,000t Krupp, an 800t Demag and a 500t Liebherr all-terrain crane.

The $100,000 to $750,000 category was won by Bigge Crane & Rigging for a rigging project at a gold mine in the Nevada desert, complete with sand storms and 120°F heat. The client’s plans for machinery installation proved unworkable and there was not enough clearance to use hydraulic gantries. The job involved installing a rotating gold crushing unit, including the mill shell and a motor made up of three sections, weighing 700 US ton in total. Construction of the housing structure had already begun, so overhead cranes could not be used. Bigge had four and a half months to design, fabricate and erect a one-off 600 ton capacity lifting system. Meanwhile construction of the housing structure was accelerated. An 85m translation runway and support trunions were erected, spanning a 30m stretch where other machinery was to be installed. Huge sections of the mill shell were pre-assembled into a 500 ton unit and placed along the translation runway. The three sections of the 200 ton motor were then installed, piece by piece, within the housing, in a kind of mid-air jigsaw puzzle, working to tolerances of 0.13mm. Bigge did all this twice – there was another motor and mill shell assembly to be installed in the next bay.

Bigge was up against Barnhart Crane & Rigging, which also had to endure uncomfortably hot conditions at Williams Refinery where it built a lift tower for raising a vessel.

Barnhart also competed in the under $100,000 category for the removal of a Russian RD 180 rocket engine from a test stand for Lockheed Martin and Redstone Arsenal. The load weighed 20 ton, measured 18ft high by 12ft wide (5.5m x 3.6m) and was worth $10m. It was high off the ground, as the rocket was in a vertical position. A Lift Systems 4400 gantry was erected and a rotation frame was built to envelope, handle and lift out the engine.

Hawaiian Crane & Rigging’s entry in this category was a cunning solution to an apparently simple project in April 1999 – lifting 4,000lb (1.8t) air conditioning units onto the flat roof of one of those ‘big shed’ out of town stores that are twice the size of a soccer pitch. Unfortunately there was no crane big enough on the island of Oahu. Truss spacing ruled out pushing the units up from below and a helicopter was also ruled out, presumably due to flying restrictions.

Hawaiian parked a 155 ton Manitowoc 3900T truck crane with 150ft (46m) of boom on one side of the building and a 90 ton P&H 790TC truck crane with 70ft (21m) of boom on the other. Space restrictions meant neither crane could get far enough away from the wall of the building to land the units any more than 2m in from the edge of the roof without hitting the boom against the parapet. So after placing each unit at the edge of the roof, Hawaiian then ran a nylon rope from the 3900T through a 5 ton rolling block attached to the boom and walked the rope across the building and attached it to the wedge socket of the P&H. Once across the building, the rope was attached to the number one line of the P&H and the hoist line brought across the roof, taking care not to damage the fragile mono-filament membrane waterproofing. Third and final step was to connect the hoist line to the hook block of the 3900T and attach the rope to the load, and ride each unit to the middle of the roof.

To demonstrate that this improvisation was safe and was not an abuse of equipment, director of engineering Kerwin Chong produced full calculations for the tension in the wire.

But Hawaiian and Barnhart both lost out in the under $100,000 category to Burkhalter Rigging, working for Bechtel’s Red Hill Project in Mississippi. Burkhalter had already won the contract to haul a 588,000lb (270t) Toshiba stator to the power station. It then won the rigging job too, which involved lifting it nearly 14m up. For this Burkhalter designed and fabricated a girder, to be positioned on a pair of lattice towers. Then it put a 450t J&R gantry system on the girder.

Once lifted, the 9.5m x 5.3m x 4.6m load traversed along the girder, suspended from the gantry.