On a sunny day, December 5-th, 1945, 66 years ago, five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo bombers comprising Flight 19 took off from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station in Florida on a routine three hour training mission. The setup plan was to take them due east for 120 miles, north for 73 miles, and then back over a final 120-mile leg that would return them to the naval base. But that never happened - they never returned.
This mysterious disappearance has opened a list of the aircraft-related cases of missing people in the Bermuda Triangle, as before there were only multiple ship-related incidents reported. While I am still reluctant to consider Bermuda Triangle as True Stories versus Urban Myths (two sections of my Best Hoaxes blog), there are definitely some circumstances which make this part of the ocean special. Most likely, they have real scientific explanations, yet to be discovered or confirmed.
The Loss of Flight 19
The flight 19 started at 2:10 p.m., as scheduled from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station in Florida. Led by instructor Lieutenant Charles Taylor, the assignment was to fly a three-legged triangular route with a few bombing practice runs over Hen and Chickens Shoals. Two hours after the flight began, the leader of the squadron, who had been flying in the area for more than six months, reported that his compass and back-up compass had failed and that his position was unknown. The other planes experienced similar instrument malfunctions. Radio facilities on land were contacted to find the location of the lost squadron, but none were successful. After two more hours of confused messages from the fliers, a distorted radio transmission from the squadron leader was heard at 6:20 p.m., apparently calling for his men to prepare to ditch their aircraft simultaneously because of lack of fuel.
Indications are that the flight might become lost somewhere east of the Florida peninsula and was unable to determine a course to return to their base. The flight was never heard from again and no traces of the planes were ever found. It is assumed that they made forced landings at sea, in darkness somewhere east of the Florida peninsula, possibly after running out of gas. It is known that the fuel carried by the aircraft would have been completely exhausted by 8 p.m. The sea in that presumed area was rough and unfavorable for a water landing. It is also possible that some unexpected and unforeseen development of weather conditions may have intervened although there is no evidence of freak storms in the area at the time.
By this time, several land radar stations finally determined that Flight 19 was somewhere north of the Bahamas and east of the Florida coast, and at 7:27 p.m. a search and rescue Mariner aircraft took off with a 13-man crew. Three minutes later, the Mariner aircraft radioed to its home base that its mission was underway. The Mariner was never heard from again. Later, there was a report from a tanker cruising off the coast of Florida of a visible explosion seen at 7:50 p.m.
The disappearance of the 14 men of Flight 19 and the 13 men of the Mariner led to one of the largest air and seas searches to that date, and hundreds of ships and aircraft combed thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and remote locations within the interior of Florida. No trace of the bodies or aircraft was ever found.
Although naval officials maintained that the remains of the six aircraft and 27 men were not found because stormy weather destroyed the evidence, the story of the "Lost Squadron" helped cement the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, an area of the Atlantic Ocean where ships and aircraft are said to disappear without a trace. The Bermuda Triangle is said to stretch from the southern U.S. coast across to Bermuda and down to the Atlantic coast of Cuba and Santo Domingo.
History of Bermuda Triangle’s Bad Reputation
Unusual features of the area had been noted in the past. Christopher Columbus wrote in his log about bizarre compass bearings in the area. However, the term "Bermuda Triangle" was first used in an article written by Vincent H. Gaddis for Argosy magazine in 1964. In the article, Gaddis claimed that in this strange sea a number of ships and planes had disappeared without explanation. Gaddis wasn't the first one to come to this conclusion, either. As early as 1952, George X. Sands, in a report in Fate magazine, noted what seemed like an unusually large number of strange accidents in that region.
In 1969 John Wallace Spencer wrote a book called Limbo of the Lost specifically about the Triangle and, two years later, a feature documentary on the subject, The Devil's Triangle, was released. These, along with the bestseller The Bermuda Triangle, published in 1974, permanently registered the legend of the "Hoodoo Sea" within popular culture.
Why do ships and planes seem to go missing in the region? Some authors suggested it may be due to a strange magnetic anomaly that affects compass readings (in fact they claim Columbus noted this when he sailed through the area in 1492). Others theorize that methane eruptions from the ocean floor may suddenly be turning the sea into a froth that can't support a ship's weight so it sinks (though there is no evidence of this type of thing happening in the Triangle for the past 15,000 years). Several books have gone as far as conjecturing that the disappearances are due to an intelligent, technologically advanced race living in space or under the sea.
In 1975, Larry Kusche, a librarian at Arizona State University, reached a totally different conclusion. Kusche decided to investigate the claims made by these articles and books. What he found he published in his own book entitled The Bermuda Triangle Mystery-Solved. Kusche had carefully dug into records other writers had neglected. He found that many of the strange accidents were not so strange after all. Often a Triangle writer had noted a ship or plane had disappeared in "calms seas" when the record showed a raging storm had been in progress. Others said ships had "mysteriously vanished" when their remains had actually been found and the cause of their sinking explained. In one case a ship listed missing in the Triangle actually had disappeared in the Pacific Ocean some 3,000 miles away! The author had confused the name of the Pacific port the ship had left with a city of the same name on the Atlantic coast.
More significantly, a check of Lloyd's of London's accident records by the editor of Fate in 1975 showed that the Triangle was no more dangerous than any other part of the ocean. U.S. Coast Guard records confirmed this and since that time no good arguments have ever been made to refute those statistics. So many argue that the Bermuda Triangle mystery has disappeared, in the same way many of its supposed victims vanished.
The Bermuda Triangle Facts
The "Bermuda Triangle" or "Devil's Triangle" is an imaginary area located off the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States of America, which is noted for a supposedly high incidence of unexplained disappearances of ships and aircraft. The apexes of the triangle are generally believed to be Bermuda; Miami, Florida; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The US Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name. The US Navy does not believe the Bermuda Triangle exists. It is reported that Lloyd's of London, the world's leading market for specialist insurance, does not charge higher premiums for vessels transiting this heavily traveled area.
A significant factor with regard to missing vessels in the Bermuda Triangle is a strong ocean current called the Gulf Stream. It is extremely swift and turbulent and can quickly erase evidence of a disaster. The weather also plays its role. Prior to the development of telegraph, radio and radar, sailors did not know a storm or hurricane was nearby until it appeared on the horizon. For example, the Continental Navy sloop Saratoga was lost off the Bahamas in such a storm with all her crew on 18 March 1781. Many other US Navy ships have been lost at sea in storms around the world. Sudden local thunder storms and water spouts can sometimes spell disaster for mariners and air crews. Finally, the topography of the ocean floor varies from extensive shoals around the islands to some of the deepest marine trenches in the world. Most of the sea floor in the Bermuda Triangle is about 19,000 feet (5,791 meters) down; near its southern tip, the Puerto Rico Trench dips at one point to 27,500 (8,229 meters) feet below sea level. With the interaction of the strong currents over the many reefs the topography of the ocean bottom is in a state of flux and the development of new navigational hazards can sometimes be swift.
It has been inaccurately claimed that the Bermuda Triangle is one of the two places on earth at which a magnetic compass points towards true north. Normally a compass will point toward magnetic north. The difference between the two is known as compass variation. The amount of variation changes by as much as 60 degrees at various locations around the World. If this compass variation or error is not compensated for, navigators can find themselves far off course and in deep trouble. Although in the past this compass variation did affect the "Bermuda Triangle" region, due to fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field this has apparently not been the case since the nineteenth century.
Sources and Additional Information:http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1205_021205_bermudatriangle.html