BUXTON, N.C. (AP) _ Hundreds of spectators watched as the nation's tallest lighthouse began its slow journey to a new site a half-mile away from the ocean breakers that have threatened to undermine it.

``I'd hate to see it go into the ocean,'' said Tiffany Garren of Columbus, Ohio, as she watched the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse move its first few inches on Thursday. ``I was really glad I could say I was here when they moved it.''

On the first moving day, the 208-foot lighthouse was rolled silently 10 feet, 4 inches in about an hour. Rangers had expected to hear a screeching, metal-on-metal sound.

National Park Service officials said they were confident the lighthouse could safely be moved along rails, pushed by hydraulic jacks. But the first push of about 5 inches made them feel better. A cheer went up from the crowd as the landmark's trek began.

``I feel like we've really gotten someplace,'' said Bob Reynolds, superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. He rode atop the lighthouse during its incremental move, standing on a circular platform near an American flag draped over the railing.

Threatened with destruction by the encroaching sea, the white-and-black barber-pole-striped lighthouse is being moved 2,900 feet inland, a trip that will take four to six weeks. The 4,800-ton brick tower, which was built in 1870 to warn ships away from shoals off a flat shoreline, is set to reopen next Memorial Day weekend.

The move will cost taxpayers $10 million and keep the lighthouse safe for more than a century, Reynolds said.

Not everyone feels good about the relocation. John Hooper, owner of a motel in this Hatteras Island village, said he wished the lighthouse had been left on the shore, and felt it could have been saved with wave barriers.

``Technically, I was sure they could do it,'' said Hooper, who led a committee that opposed the move. ``It was just the wrong bureaucratic decision.''