The Bermuda Triangle has long been full of mysteries. More than 100 ships and planes have vanished there since 1945 and lost with them have been more than 1,000 lives. But the mysteries most certainly didn't start there - we've been aware of them for at least two centuries. At least six ships vanished in the 1800s without leaving any trace at all; four were American warships and one was a British training ship with 290 men aboard. But it was with increasing sea transportation and the development of the airplane that saw disappearances dramatically increase - more than 40 ships were swallowed up between 1900 and 1945. Some were sailing ships, others were steamers and at least three aircraft disappeared before Flight 19 set off. The tale of Flight 19 starts 50 years ago on December 5, 1947.
Five Avenger torpedo bombers lifted into the air from the Naval Air Station at Ft Lauderdale, Florida at just after 2PM. It was a routine flight, nothing more, a practice mission with the flight's crew comprised of students except for the commander, 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 con- duct practice bombing runs. When they had completed this, the flight plan stated that they were to fly a further 67 miles east, then turn north for 73 miles and finally fly back to base - a distance of 120 miles. This course would take them on a triangular path over the Atlantic Ocean. After about an hour and a half after the flight had set off, Lt. Robert Cox picked up a radio transmission from Flight 19. Lt. Taylor indicated that the compasses were not working correctly but believed himself to be flying somewhere over the long chain of islands that make up the Florida Keys.
Cox urged the crew to head northwards towards Miami so Taylor would have confirmation of his position. In that transmission were the first inklings that something was going desperately wrong with the flight. Today's military and commercial planes are fitted with plenty of equipment that ensures it's almost impossible to become lost if a crew uses the technology correctly. For example, by coordinating oneself by attuning to a set of Global Position Satellites that orbit the Earth, a flight can know its exact position. 50 years ago, however, planes flying over sea had to know their starting point, how long and how fast they had flown and in what direction. If a pilot made a mistake with any of these figures, he was lost. Although no one would deny that Taylor was an experienced pilot, there appeared to be some confusion which has led investigators to believe that he was flying further away from the base.
It is strange, however, that communications between the base and Flight 19 were intermittent at best. What was influencing the plane's transmissions? But at almost six PM, almost four hours after the flight had taken off, a fix on the weakening signals was managed but it was too late to save Flight 19. Communications had deteriorated so badly that the information could not be passed on. The last transmission from Flight 19 was received at 7:04PM. Planes searched the night but to no avail. Flight 19 had disappeared. The Navy's original investigation concluded that the accident had been caused by Lt. Taylor's confusion.
The lieu- tenant's mother, however, refused to accept that her experienced pilot son had caused the accident and finally had the Navy change the report to read that the disaster was for 'causes or reason unknown'. This may have spared the mother's feelings, but it may have blurred the facts of the case. So where is Flight 19? In 1991 five Avengers were found off the coast of Florida by the salvage ship Deep Sea. Further examination, however, showed that they were not Flight 19. The resting place of the planes and their crew - if there is one - is still a secret only known to the Bermuda Triangle.
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The Bermuda Triangle
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