Triangle pulls on imagination

Triangle pulls on imagination
June 25, 2009
Albert B. Southwick

In the spring of 1944, our squadron of PBY seaplanes, based at Jacksonville, Fla., was combing the Atlantic in search of German submarines. Our vectors changed every day, and sometimes we flew into the southern section of the famed Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle. Whenever that happened, we would pretend that all was lost, that we would never be seen again because we would just be the latest victims of the Atlantic Ocean’s dreaded black hole. The Triangle had been famed since 1921, when a Japanese vessel, the Raifuku Maru, went down with all hands after sending a puzzling radio message, “Danger Like Dagger Now, Come Quick.”

The Bermuda Triangle, which covers the Straits of Florida, the Bahamas and much of the Caribbean, is noted for a reputed string of naval and aviation disasters of supposedly mysterious origin. One of the more remarkable episodes, known as Flight 19, happened on Dec. 5, 1945, when a routine training flight of several Navy Avenger bombers flew into the Triangle and just disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. And then a search and rescue Mariner seaplane, with a crew of 13, went out to look for the missing planes and was never seen or heard from again.

The ocean is the source of many enduring legends, from the lost city of Atlantis, supposedly sunk beneath the waves in ancient times, to the famed ghostlike sailing ship Marie Celeste, reportedly spotted for years at various locations in the Atlantic with no one aboard. The Bermuda Triangle and its many legends are right up there with the best of them. No one can count the thousands of hours that have been spent in efforts to deduce its mysteries. Would you be surprised to learn that one line of speculation involves space aliens and extraterrestrial goings-on? The paranormal is big stuff with Bermuda Triangle buffs.

Of course, the official organs of the United States and other seafaring nations pooh-pooh the whole idea that there is anything unusual about that particular stretch of the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. Coast Guard and Lloyds of London insist that their records show nothing untoward.

But what the heck — dull folks like that probably don’t even believe in the Loch Ness monster. They have no imagination.

A glance at Google and the blogosphere shows that the Bermuda Triangle mystery is alive and well in the fevered minds of many. One of the more enduring explanations is that some colossal malfunction of the magnetic field messed up the directional compasses of various ships and planes, leading to disaster. But no scientific probe has ever found any evidence of that, more’s the pity.

How about this one from “CanadaAndreaslow” on some recent mishap in the Triangle: “Actually the Bermuda Triangle is an area where there’s lots of seismic activity! There’s a gas called methane peroxide which makes water so light that ships sink within seconds. This gas goes in the air as well and so it takes airplanes down. Methane gas is highly corrosive. It doesn’t occur all the time. Flying through the Bermuda Triangle is like taking the risk and walking over a highway with blind folds on ... Not a great idea to do that. All airlines try to avoid the triangle.”

That last statement is not quite accurate. There are and have been for years regular flights to Bermuda, the Bahamas and many other points in the Caribbean.

Some accounts from the conspiracy front are plain wrong. When the tanker V.A. Fogg sank in 1972, one Triangle theorist reported that no bodies were found except that of the captain, who allegedly was found sitting at his desk, clutching a coffee cup. But the Coast Guard reported finding several bodies, none sitting at a desk.

Skeptical researchers have noted how mysteries and the paranormal fascinate certain people who are not interested in any dry airing of the facts. Those types are intrigued by the most preposterous hypotheses, including those of the supernatural. Followers of Edgar Cayce, the noted psychic, have linked the Triangle with the ancient legend of Atlantis, the city supposedly lost beneath the waves eons ago. A Steven Spielberg film, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” attributed the lost Flight 19 to alien hanky-panky. Others have speculated that the Triangle is a wormhole, a gap in space and time.

Of all the mysterious happenings in the Triangle, Flight 19 is the most puzzling to a former flier like me. Every one of those planes had a radio and a direction finder. I find it almost impossible to believe that none of them could figure out where he was.

Most plausible to me is that they all inadvertently plunged into an electrical storm so violent that none survived. But that is only speculation.

One thing is certain — the Bermuda Triangle will continue to feed all sorts of theories and hypotheses about lost mariners, pilots, ships and planes. It is right up there with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster when it comes to endurance.
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