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Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is an area of supposed mystery in a rough triangle defined by the vertices at Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Florida. Within this area it is said that a number of ships and planes have disappeared without cause.

The area was first noted in 1950 by E.V.W. Jones as a sidebar on recent ship losses on the AP wire. It was again mentioned in 1952 in a Fate magazine article, by George Sand. The term "Bermuda Triangle" was first popularised by Vincent Gaddis in a 1964 Argosy feature.

It achieved true fame largely through the efforts of Charles Berlitz[?] in his 1974 book The Bermuda Triangle. The book consisted of a series of recountings of mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft, collected from local newpaper reports. The book was a best-seller, and many "experts" offered up their "theories" to explain what caused the disappearances. The list includes natural storms, transportation by extraterrestrial technology, a temporal hole, the lost Atlantis empire from the bottom of the ocean, etc.

A librarian named Larry Kusche[?] was intrigued by the number of students coming to him looking for information about the Bermuda triangle, and he started following up the original reports. His findings were eventually published as The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved. It clearly demonstrated the truly ridiculous nature of the original claims.

In the course of researching the book, he found and interviewed a man who had supposedly vanished without trace; his yacht had been caught in a major tropical storm, and he turned up safe and sound a day or two later, with no reporter from the local press to notice that he wasn't missing any longer. The Berlitz book included the round-the-world yachtsman, Donald Crowhurst[?], in spite of the fact that Crowhurst had been fabricating his voyage, and his diary strongly suggested suicide. A boat with three fishermen aboard, supposedly lost on a still, calm night, had been lost in the strongest tropical storm of the year. One ore carrier ship, lost without trace three days out of port, was actually lost three days from a port of the same name in the Pacific Ocean.

The losses that remain unexplained; e.g., the collier[?] USS Cyclops, lost in 1918 with 306 passengers and crew, can usually be attributed to bad weather and poor rescue capabilities of their times.

However the most famous incident remains famous to this day, the loss of "Flight 19", a group of Navy bombers on a training flight out of Ft. Lauderdale[?]. According to Berlitz, the flight consisted of expert pilots who reported a number of odd visual effects before simply disappearing, never to be found. A Navy search-and-rescue plane sent out to find them also disappeared. The TBM Avenger[?] bombers were built to float for long periods, so they should have been found the next day considering the calm seas.

Practically everything about this particular story is wrong, and smacks of outright fabrication. For instance, the flight in question was a training flight, which should immediately suggest that the claims of them being expert pilots is suspect. In fact only the flight leader was an expert, and he seems to have been having problems that day, and even asked another pilot at the base to take the flight for him (he refused).

Having set out, they got lost. A radio call noted that they were flying over a small group of islands that they assumed were the Florida Keys, implying that they were well off course and far to the west of where they should have been. In fact a later re-creation showed that the islands in question were their bombing target, and that they were exactly on course. The next few hours consisted of the lead pilot leading the flight further and further east in an effort to reach Florida, when in fact they were already far out to sea off the east coast.

When, after many hours of flying away from land, they ran out of fuel they were forced to ditch. Far from calm, the sea by this point had 6-foot swells and it would be practically impossible to ditch. The PBM Mariner[?] sent to rescue them, with which they were in radio contact for much of the flight, was a notorious model of plane that tended to catch fire and explode in air. In fact that is exactly what happened in this case, and the explosion was witnessed by the crew of a boat as it happened.

Of course, none of this was mentioned in the original work.

Kusche came to several conclusions:

  • With this area being one of the busiest shipping areas in the world, the proportion of losses was no greater than anywhere else.
  • In an area with frequent tropical storms, the total disappearance of some ships was not unlikely or mysterious, and the number of such disappearances was exaggerated by sloppy research, when a missing boat would be reported in the press, but not its eventual return to port.
  • In actual disappearances, the circumstances were frequently misreported in the Bermuda Triangle books: the number of ships disappearing in supposedly still, calm weather did not jibe with press weather reports published at the time.

External Links

Further reading

  • The Bermuda Triangle, Charles Berlitz - appears to be currently out of print: however, there are many other books available covering the same material, frequently the same stories.
  • The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved, Lawrence David Kusche - ISBN 0879759712

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