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Into the Bermuda Triangle
Pursuing the Truth Behind the World's Greatest Mystery
By Gian J. Quasar
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2005The Mcgraw Hill
All rights reserved.
The Bermuda Triangle: A Riddle at a Nearby Shore
Within the western North Atlantic Ocean there exists what might be called a triangle of sea extending southwest from the island of Bermuda to Miami and through southern Florida to Key West; then, encompassing the Bahamas, it extends southeast through Puerto Rico to as far as 15° North latitude, and then from there northward back to Bermuda. This is the area commonly called the Bermuda Triangle. For all intents and purposes it appears like any other temperate sea. Yet in the annals of sea mysteries there is no other place that challenges mankind with so many extraordinary and incredible events, for this is where far more aircraft and ships have disappeared throughout recorded maritime history than in any other region of the world's oceans. With few exceptions the disappearances have been in fair weather, sending out no distress messages and leaving no wreckage or bodies. In the last twenty-five years alone, some seventy-five aircraft and hundreds of pleasure yachts have inexplicably vanished despite the fact that GPS is now extensively used, that communication systems are powerful and reliable, and that searches are immediately launched.
Disturbing as these numbers may seem, the circumstances surrounding many of the disappearances are what really give rise to the greatest alarm. From the files of several federal investigating bureaus, eye-opening details emerge that continue to present difficult questions that as yet have no answers within the scope of our present knowledge of the sea, aeronautics, and navigation. One such disappearance illustrates this point.
It was Halloween 1991. Radar controllers checked and rechecked what they had just seen. The scope was blank in one spot now. Everywhere else within the scope seemed normal, and routine traffic was proceeding undisturbed, in their vectors, tracked and uninterrupted. But moments earlier radar had been tracking a Grumman Cougar jet. The pilot was John Verdi. He and trained copilot, Paul Lukaris, were heading toward Tallahassee, Florida. Just moments before, with a crackle of the mike, Verdi's voice had come over the receiver at the flight center.
He requested a higher altitude. Permission was quickly granted and the turbo jet was observed ascending from 25,000 feet to its new altitude of 29,000 feet. All seemed normal. Some thunderstorms had drifted into the path of the jet, and satellite imagery confirmed the area was overcast.
But that was no concern for Verdi. They were above the weather. At their present altitude they were just breaking out of the cloud cover, emerging into the brilliant sunlight.
The clouds must have been their typical breathtaking sight, billowing below in glowing white hills and arroyos.
They were still ascending. Verdi had not yet "rogered" that he had reached his prescribed flight level.
Radar continued to track the Cougar. Until, for some unknown reason, while ascending, it simply faded away. Verdi and Lukaris answered no more calls to respond. Furthermore, they had sent no SOS to indicate they had encountered any hint of a problem. Readouts of the radar observations confirmed the unusual. The Grumman had not been captured on the scope at all as descending or as falling to the sea; there had been no sudden loss of altitude. It just disappeared from the scope while climbing. One sweep they were there. The next—raised brows on traffic controllers: it was blank.
The ocean, sitting under convective thunderstorm activity, was naturally not conducive to a search. No trace, if there was any left to find, was ever sifted out of the Gulf. When it was all over, the whole incident was chalked under a familiar and terse assumption: "aircraft damage and injury index presumed."
So far, very few disappearances have ever been reported by the press and, if they are, they're reported with little attention to detail, or the reports studiously avoid any reference to the unusual. In 1978 and 1979 alone, eighteen aircraft mysteriously vanished, yet only two or three rated any space in newspapers. Among these missing planes was a DC-3 airliner; a large twin-engine charter on approach; and several private aircraft in the narrow corridor between Bimini Island and Miami, which are in view of each other from aircraft altitudes. Yet, nevertheless, all vanished as if surgically extracted by a hand being careful not to affect the surrounding heavy traffic on that route, which reported no signs of wreckage or unusual weather. Even apart from the strangeness of the events preceding and surrounding some disappearances, it appears fairly obvious by the number that something is very wrong.
Although it is often publicly recited that the Bermuda Triangle's reputation is based on twenty planes and fifty vessels posted missing over the last hundred years, official records vividly show that such a number can be and has been easily exceeded in any given two-year period. On an average, however, four aircraft and about twenty yachts vanish each year.
The frequency of those two years is alarming enough. But out of all the alarming elements in the statistics, it is not the isolated surges of losses that are the most intriguing. Dossiers on all aircraft accidents, which include missing planes, are still maintained, and behind-the-scenes they monotonously document the startling repetition. A "Brief Format," usually just called a Brief, is available for perusal from civil investigating authorities, particularly the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C. These handy and mostly terse one- or two-page chits preserve the known facts. Considering the brevity of the information, the nickname Brief is not a misnomer, especially prior to 1982 before the Board enlarged the scope of information contained on the sheets. Their pages, though, quietly testify to the actual number of missing planes in the Bermuda Triangle.
Computer searches of the database files of the NTSB for several time brackets reveal some sobering statistics. It is quite surprising to examine the Briefs and notice what is not in newspapers. For instance, between 1964 (the oldest dates for the "Brief" records) and 1974 thirty-seven planes vanished. The period from 1974 to 1984 show that forty-one aircraft have mysteriously disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. The pattern was the same—mostly over the Bahamas; it continued: from 1984 to 1994 thirty-two vanished. And from 1994 to the present twenty aircraft have disappeared. Although it may appear that the number is on the decrease, this decrease mirrors the economic downturn of the late 1990s, and dropped sharply after September 11, 2001, when traffic was severely curtailed for a number of reasons.
There is no evidence, however, that the circumstances for disappearances are any less unusual than before. Mystery continues to strike. On Christmas Eve 1994, a Piper aircraft vanished over West Boca Raton, Florida—one of the few instances of a plane ostensibly disappearing over land. Although radar operators could never find a trace of it in their tracking readouts, a witness below clearly saw the navigation lights of the Piper. Investigation proved it must have belonged to Laurent Abecassis, who had taken the plane out earlier in the day for some practice flying. On May 12, 1999, an Aero Commander, while approaching Nassau, disappeared from radar for thirty minutes, then miraculously reappeared, though the pilot seemed unaware anything had happened, be fore the plane and the pilot vanished again, this time permanently. On February 1, 2001, Casey Purvis was in his Cherokee Six playing radar tag with a Coast Guard aircraft as a practice maneuver. Suddenly he reported himself in a fog, then vanished. Wreckage from the a
Excerpted from Into the Bermuda Triangle by Gian J. Quasar. Copyright © 2005 by The Mcgraw Hill. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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