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Historic lighthouse to be airlifted to safety after earthquake

New Zealand Department of Conservation via EPA

An undated photograph of the Godley Head lighthouse made available to NBC News on July 5, 2013.

A helicopter rescue to save an historic lighthouse balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff will soon be under way in New Zealand.

The Godley Head lighthouse near Christchurch was first lit in April 1865. After two earthquakes in 2011, the structure was left clinging to the cliffs over Mechanics Bay. 

TV New Zealand reports that rescuers plan to rappel down the cliff face to remove the lighthouse's copper dome and lantern housing, which will then be lifted by helicopter to another site.

The stone building that housed the lighthouse keepers and their families until the lighthouse was automated in 1976 will be left behind.