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 – which 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. 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.
An area called the Devil’s Sea by Japanese and Filipino seamen, located off the East Coast of Japan, and also exhibits the same magnetic characteristics as the Bermuda Triangle. The Devils Sea is also known for its mysterious disappearances.
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 Center 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.