The Bermuda Triangle is a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean bordered by a line from Florida to the islands of Bermuda,
to Puerto Rico and then back to Florida. It is one of the biggest mysteries of our time - that isn't really a mystery.
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.
Several books suggested that the disappearances were due to an intelligent, technologically
advanced race living in space or under the sea.
The only problem was that the mystery was more hype than reality. In 1975 a librarian at Arizona State University,
named Larry 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.
More significantly a check of Lloyd's of London's accident records by the editor of Fate in 1975 showed that
the triangle was a no more dangerous part of the ocean than any other. U.S. Coast Guard records confirmed this and since that
time no good arguments have ever been made to refute those statistics. So the Bermuda Triangle mystery disappeared, in the
same way many of its supposed victims had vanished.
Even though the Bermuda Triangle isn't a true mystery, this region of the sea certainly has had its share of marine
tragedy. Perhaps the best-known one was the story of Flight 19.
The tale of Flight 19 started on December 5th, 1945. Five Avenger torpedo bombers lifted into the
air from the Navel Air Station at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at 2:10 in the afternoon. It was a routine practice mission and
the flight was composed of all students except for the Commander, a Lt. Charles Taylor.
The mission called for Taylor and his group of 13 men to fly due east 56 miles to Hens and Chicken Shoals to conduct
practice-bombing runs. When they had completed that objective, the flight plan called for them to fly an additional 67 miles
east, then turn north for 73 miles and finally straight back to base, a distance of 120 miles. This course would take them
on a triangular path over the sea.
About an hour and a half after the flight had left, a Lt. Robert Cox picked up a radio transmission from Taylor. Taylor
indicated that his compasses were not working, but he believed himself to be somewhere over the Florida Keys (the Keys are
a long chain of islands south of the Florida mainland). Cox urged him to fly north, toward Miami, if Taylor was sure the flight
was over the Keys.
Planes today have a number of ways that they can check their current position including listening to a set of GPS (Global
Positioning Satellites) in orbit around the Earth. It is almost impossible for a pilot to get lost if he has the right equipment
and uses it properly. In 1945, though, planes flying over water had to depend on knowing their starting point, how long and
fast they had flown, and in what direction. If a pilot made a mistake with any of these figures, he was lost. Over the ocean
there were no landmarks to set him right.
Apparently Taylor had become confused at some point in the flight. He was an experienced pilot, but hadn't spent a
lot of time flying east toward the Bahamas, which was where he was going on that day. For some reason Taylor apparently thought
the flight had started out in the wrong direction and had headed south toward the Keys, instead of east. This thought was
to colour his decisions throughout the rest of the flight with deadly results.
The more Taylor took his flight north to try to get out of the Keys, the further out to sea the Avengers actually travelled.
As time went on, snatches of transmissions were picked up on the mainland indicating the other Flight 19 pilots were trying
to get Taylor to change course. "If we would just fly west," one student told another, "we would get home." He was right.
By 4:45 P.M. it was obvious to the people on the ground that Taylor was hopelessly lost. He was urged to turn control
of the flight over to one of his students, but apparently he didn't. As it grew dark, communications deteriorated. From the
few words that did get through it was apparent Taylor was still flying north and east, the wrong directions.
At 5:50 P.M. the ComGulf Sea Frontier Evaluation Centre managed get a fix on Flight 19's weakening signals. It was
apparently east of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. By then communications were so poor that this information could not be passed
to the lost planes.
At 6:20 a Dumbo Flying Boat was dispatched to try and find Flight 19 and guide it back. Within the hour two more planes,
Martin Mariners, joined the search. Hope was rapidly fading for Flight 19 by then. The weather was getting rough and the Avengers
were very low on fuel.