It was fifty-two years after the amazing rescue of a lighthouse keeper’s daughter took place in the stormy and cold waters off Maine’s Wood Island Lighthouse that the surviving participants and their descendants gathered for a reunion to launch Rogue Wave, a new book that recounts the events of that harrowing night.
It was in November of 1960 when young Tammy Burnham fell ill at the island lighthouse. A 30-foot Coast Guard boat was dispatched from nearby Fletcher’s Neck Life Boat Station in Biddeford Pool to remove the two-year old girl off the island and take her to the mainland for medical attention. However, her removal from the island to the mainland met with disaster. After picking the little girl off the island, the skiff carrying the little girl and two Coast Guardsmen from the lighthouse to the Coast Guard boat was struck by a rogue wave that capsized the boat, throwing all of them into the 42 degree water. What happened afterwards is a riveting tale that has been brought to life in the book Rogue Wave that has taken years to research, and then, because of an amazing amount of controversy, had to be re-researched and the book had to be re-written.
Rouge Wave, complied by Margo Alley, whose grandfather was a participant in the incident of that night in November of 1960, has brilliantly brought to life the events surrounding that dramatic night; how Tammy was saved, the subsequent investigation, the how and why it took over 30 years for the life-saving awards to be given, and the story around the subsequent controversy. This was accomplished with the help of many of those who were there and had first hand knowledge, such as Edward Syvinski, the Coast Guardsman who clung to Tammy as the two bobbed up and down in the turbulent waters of the dark stormy night. The fact that they survived is a miracle in itself. But it was the subsequent events after the rescue, which give the story its intrigue.
Among the many people present at the autograph signing for the launching of the book Rogue Wave were Ed Syvinski, who, along with his wife Annette, drove from Arizona to Maine for the event, and LCDR Kristopher Furtney (USCG Ret.), who was the Coast Guard officer appointed in 1993 to investigate the 1960 Burnham rescue.
The two-hour book signing turned into a four-hour event. At an evening dinner after the autograph signing, LCDR Kristopher Furtney, (USCG Ret.) gave a heartwarming and appropriate toast 20 years after his investigation and 52 years after the rescue, which, by all accounts, should bring to a conclusion the amazing chain of events that happened on that cold and wintery night in November of 1960 in the waters off Maine’s Wood Island Lighthouse.
The author, Margo Alley, has done an amazing job in bringing the history of Wood Island Lighthouse into the riveting story of the events of the famous rescue and the events after the rescue. The swirling controversy that surrounds the story so many years later can finally be put to rest as you, after reading the book, will be able to easily draw your own conclusion. As I wrote in the forward of the book, “Truth is more fascinating than fiction,” a statement that certainly applies here. If fact, this is the type of real-life story that would make a great movie. Hollywood, where are you?
Rogue Wave is available from Lighthouse Digest as item #263 for $20. The soft cover, 187 page book, with many historic photographs, is highly recommended by Lighthouse Digest.
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This story appeared in the
Sep/Oct 2012 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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