Rising 135 feet above the Atlantic Ocean is Frying Pan Tower—a legendary structure for many North Carolinians, environmental researchers, and eco-adventurers from around the world. The Tower sits more than 30 miles off the North Carolina coast amidst international waters. It is a far-flung step back in time, offering visitors an escape from mainland realities and immersion into the serenity of ocean life. The structure is also one of the most unique and remote places that Amazon delivers to customers.
The U.S. Coast Guard built the Frying Pan Tower in 1964 as a light station to alert ships of the rocky, shallow Frying Pan Shoals nearby. When the Coast Guard originally built the metal structure, its life expectancy was no more than 50 years. Today, 58 years later, the wind-and-solar-powered Tower stands as a unique piece of history and an ecological research site for organizations ranging from offshore wind and marine life programs to the world’s leading universities. And perhaps most importantly, it fosters a natural ecosystem for great white sharks, barracudas, and some of the world’s most diverse marine life living in the clear blue waters at the Tower’s base.
Richard Neal, executive director of the Frying Pan Tower, Inc. spends most of his days and nights working with volunteers to support his nonprofit’s mission to “Restore, Protect, and Preserve” the Tower for the future. Neal relies on Amazon to deliver the items that contribute to maintaining—and living in—the Tower: Welding supplies, shark camera gear, water hoist materials, pantry staples for hungry restoration volunteers, not to mention the occasional order of biodegradable fish-food golf balls that he and volunteers can be found hitting off the Tower on a sunny day.
“There are few structures in the world like the Frying Pan Tower, so I’ve made it my life’s mission to preserve it for today, tomorrow, and long after I’m gone,” Neal said. “We’re in a race against time to keep this piece of American history alive. Amazon’s delivery network, and all of the people who work behind the scenes, play an important role in this effort.”
Several times a week, Neal receives Amazon packages to the Tower by helicopter. Amazon’s interconnected logistics network and third-party carrier partnerships make the journey to the Tower possible. After Neal clicks “Buy Now” on welding accessories, an Amazon employee working at a fulfillment center in Raleigh, North Carolina packages the order. It travels via line-haul truck to a Raleigh sort center, where Amazon employees sort the packages by ZIP code.
“Deliveries for Frying Pan Tower start in Raleigh—nearly three hours northwest of the coast. We have a team of employees working behind the scenes every day to prepare packages for the final mile of delivery,” said Tri Nguyen, Raleigh sort center operations manager.
After Neal’s packages make their way through the Raleigh sort center, one of Amazon’s third-party carrier partners picks them up and delivers them to the Cape Fear Regional Jetport in Oak Island, North Carolina. As the last leg of the delivery, helicopter pilot Willis Tew packs Neal’s packages at the airport and delivers them directly to the Tower’s landing platform.
The to-do list required to restore, protect, and preserve the Tower never ends for Neal and the dedicated volunteers who come from around the world.
“My goal is to see the Tower carry on for future generations,” he said. “Without Amazon, we couldn’t get it done.”