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Bermuda Triangle

By Patrick Mondout

Geographically, the Bermuda Triangle is the area triangulated by southern Florida, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico in the Atlantic Ocean. In pop culture terms, the Bermuda Triangle is the area where you hope your boss attempts to try out his new single-engine airplane. That is, the Bermuda Triangle is infamous as an area where many ships and planes have "disappeared" without a trace. The same crowd that would have you believe an alien spacecraft crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 have their own theories for the disappearances which range from time warps to alien abductions to supernatural powers. Most of them are also trying to cash in on their theories. In the Super70s, many of them did.

Myth Origins

Were did all this madness begin? It starts with the "mysterious" disappearance of Flight 19. In the afternoon of December 5, 1945, a group of five Navy bombers, led by Lieutenant Charles Taylor, sets out on a training mission from the Naval Air Station at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. At about 4:00 p.m., or almost two hours after takeoff, radio contact was lost with the Avenger bombers and they were never heard from again. A search plane was sent to find the wreckage but also mysteriously disappeared. That's six planes and 27 men missing without a trace. Upon further review, it turns out that mysterious disappearances in this area date back hundreds of years. In fact, Christopher Columbus had problems with his compasses when he went through this area. Must be aliens or supernatural forces at work, right?

Pseudo-Science to the Rescue!

Nature does not like a vacuum. And the vacuum of explanations surrounding Flight 19 and other disappearances was filled with books, magazine articles, and television documentaries in the Super70s. A book titled "The Bermuda Triangle" appeared in 1974 which claimed the disappearances were the result of supernatural forces. Later that year, an "expert" in a TV documentary claimed that the planes were still there but were locked into place by a force created by a UFO. Still others claimed it was the work of Satan. Theories from Edgar Cayce would have been conspicuous by their absence in a field like this. Fortunately, the Mystic Mr. Cayce did not disappoint. Cayce claimed the long-lost city of Atlantis was located within the Bermuda Triangle and that energy beams from powerful crystals within Atlantis caused problems the navigational systems of the missing ships and planes. As Carl Sagan used to sarcastically say, "perhaps."

The Truth is Out There

It turns out that the last radio transmission from the planes of Flight 19 mentioned trouble with the navigational equipment and that they were lost. That the trainer and his four trainees could get lost due to faulty navigational equipment in stormy weather should surprise no one. That the planes, which were off course and potentially lost in the 30,000 ft deep Puerto Rican Trench (the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean) were never found in the 200,000 square mile search area should also not come as a surprise. It also turns out that the search plane, a Mariner - which had the nickname "The Flying Gas Tank" because of its tendency to explode during flight - crashed not long after takeoff and never made it anywhere near the Bermuda Triangle. The Navy grounded all other Mariners shortly thereafter.

As to the question of the navigational equipment failure, the Bermuda Triangle area is one of the two places on earth where a magnetic compass points towards true north (instead of toward magnetic north). "Compass variation" is the difference between the two and the amount of variation changes by as much as 20 degrees as one circumnavigates the earth. If the crew fails to compensate for compass variation, they will end up far off course and in deep trouble (and possibly deep water). In case you are wondering, the other place on earth where magnetic compasses point towards true north is off the east coast of Japan. This area is called the "Devil's Sea" by Filipino and Japanese seamen and is also known for its mysterious disappearances.

The true believers will tell you that more than 20 airplanes and 40 ships have been lost in this area. Those figures are truly remarkable. Remarkably low, in fact, when you consider that they Coast Guard responded to over 8,000 distress signals from that area during 1973 alone!  If you cast the story just right in a TV documentary, play the right spooky music, and show WWII bombers disappearing into the fog, you can convince millions of innocent coach potatoes just about anything. Such documentaries and their literary equivalents were not in short supply during the Superstitious Super70s.


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"Remember Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster? Thanks to shows like Leonard Nimoy's In Search of, we got spooked by a number of animals that didn't even exist!"



At least 22 airplanes and 40 ships have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. Is it alien abduction? The supernatural power of Atlantis? Or just a dangerous area to navigate?

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