Chatham turns back the clock to 1952 to film the daring Pendleton rescue


The snowy scene this past week at Chatham Lighthouse during the filming of the Pendleton story. Pat Brooks photo.

It was a frigid February night almost 63 years ago when one of the most daring rescues in the history of the United States Coast Guard took place six miles off Chatham.

There was a lot of snow at the Coast Guard Station and Chatham Lighthouse this past week as the station’s roof and lawn as well as vintage cars parked in front were covered in make-believe snow in preparation for filming scenes for the Disney movie “The Finest Hours” about the wreck of the Pendleton and the rescue of 32 of the 33 men on the tanker’s stern.

About the movie

The movie crew will be in Chatham December 11-13, but according to a story in the Boston Globe, the Disney movie “The Finest Hours” will be filmed mostly on Duxbury Beach.

The film is scheduled for release in April 2016 and is directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy.

“The Finest Hours” is based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias about the true story of the Pendleton rescue mission.

Local shooting for the $85 million production got underway at the station and the lighthouse on Friday, and was scheduled to continue at various locations through next Saturday.

About the book

The book begins, “On February 18, 1952, an astonishing maritime event began when a ferocious nor’easter split in half a 500 foot-long T2 oil tanker, the Pendleton, approximately one mile off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Incredibly, just twenty miles away, a second tanker, the Fort Mercer, also split in half. On both fractured tankers, men were trapped on the severed bows and sterns, and all four sections were sinking in 40-foot sea. Thus began a life-and-death drama of survival, heroism, and a series of tragic mistakes. Of the 84 seamen aboard the tankers, 70 would be rescued, and 14 would lose their lives.”

The two photos by Pat Brooks below show what the scene looked like last week as the movie crew prepared the site for the film.

Read more about the Pendleton rescue here.

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