Friday, June 25, 2010

Flight 19 and the Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle

A typical sunny Florida day.

That was the weather report in Fort Lauderdale on December 5, 1945.  A good day for flying.

At 2 o’clock that afternoon, five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers headed off from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, on a training flight over the waters of the Atlantic.

The flight by five highly experienced pilots was to have taken them due east for 150 miles, and north for 40 miles, before returning to base.

But at 3:45, the Fort Lauderdale tower received an unexpected call.

“Cannot see land … we seem to be off course.”

Tower: “What is your position?”

A few moments of silence pass.

“We cannot be sure where we are,” reports the flight leader. “Repeat: Cannot see land.”

Contact is then lost with the flight for about 10 minutes.

Now, rather than the voice of the flight leader, there are voices of the crews, sounding confused and disoriented.

“We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”

More transmission delays follow.

When communication resumes, the air traffic controller discovers that the leader has turned over his command to another pilot without explanation.

Twenty minutes later, a distressing call that, according to Navy reports — bordered on hysteria.

“We can’t tell where we are … everything is … can’t make out anything.  We think we may be about 225 miles northeast of base …”

The pilot continues to ramble incoherently, and then this transmission.

“It looks like we are entering white water … we’re completely lost.”

Those were the final words ever to be heard from Flight 19.

Search Team Dispatched … and the Mystery Deepens

Within minutes, a Mariner flying boat was dispatched to try find Flight 19.

Ten minutes after taking off, they check in with the tower … and then are never heard from again.

Ships Dispatched

Now, Coast Guard and Naval ships as well as aircraft are sent to search the area for the six aircraft that have vanished.

All they find is calm waters and clear skies.  They search for five days, covering 250,000 square miles of Atlantic Ocean.

No trace of the missing planes are ever found.

A Navy Board of Inquiry investigates the curious case.  Their summation:

“We are not able to even make a good guess as to what happened.”

The Bermuda Triangle

The story of Flight 19 is just one of the mysterious happenings over these waters that lie between South Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda.

Or as this region is better known – the Bermuda Triangle.

The Devil’s Triangle, as it’s also known, has earned quite a reputation over the years.

The reports of planes, ships, and people disappearing are numerous.

Some chalk the stories up to weather, others to magnetic anomalies, and others still believe UFO’s may be involved.

Flying Over the Triangle

Last year, I had the chance to fly over the region during hurricane season, on a trip from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Flying over those waters, I was struck with an eerie feeling.  There was a strange sense of tranquility, as I looked out the window at a never-ending expanse of puffy clouds and the Atlantic Ocean, some 40,000 feet below.

Having lost our satellite TV reception not long after moving out over the ocean, as far as I was concerned, we were flying blind.

But eventually, the clouds and water gave way to my first sighting of land in the distance.
We made it.

In hindsight, I wish I would have asked the pilots if everything looked A-OK to them.  Maybe their compasses went haywire.  Maybe they lost radio contact.

Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t.  I don’t know.  Pilots sometimes see unusual things while flying.
But at least we arrived.  And survived.

In the days ahead, I depart on a return journey to waters of this strange zone, to further explore the mysteries of the Triangle.  Perhaps I’ll finally be able to solve the mystery of Flight 19.

Stay tuned …

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