“It didn't vanish without a trace.”
Australian scientist and popular TV science commentator Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki had that to say about a famous disappearance in 1945 of a military aircraft over the so-called Bermuda Triangle and would probably say this or something similar about most unexplained vanishings of planes and ships in the triangular area of the Atlantic most often defined as the waters between Miami, Bermuda and San Juan, Puerto Rico. In a recent interview with news.com.au, Dr. Kruszelnicki claimed he had solved the mystery of the triangle.
“According to Lloyds of London and the US coast guard, the number of planes that go missing in the Bermuda Triangle is the same as anywhere in the world on a percentage basis.”
That’s the starting point for his argument that there’s no mystery to the Devil’s Triangle. The area is an extremely busy corridor for both ships and planes between ports in North America, Europe and the Caribbean. However, the people who have to pay when things go wrong – the insurance companies – say the statistics show that it is no more or less dangerous than any other busy transportation passageway.
Based on the numbers, Dr. Kruszelnicki says planes and boats disappear in the Bermuda Triangle area for exactly the same reason as they do everywhere else … weather and operator error. He uses the famous 1945 vanishing of Flight 19 as an example. The training flight of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers disappeared on December 5, 1945, somewhere in the triangle area. Dr Kruszelnicki notes that radio transcripts show that the squadron most likely ran out of fuel due to the inexperience of the junior pilots and navigational and judgmental errors made by Flight 19’s leader, Lieutenant Charles Taylor.
“(Lt. Taylor) arrived with a hangover, flew off without a watch, and had a history of getting lost and ditching his plane twice before.”
The mystery deepened at the time when a PBM Mariner flying boat rescue aircraft with a 13-man crew also disappeared. Dr Kruszelnicki points out that the weather was bad, the waves were high and the Mariner was prone to vapor leaks when fully fueled, which caused the planes to explode. Guess what happened, according to a tanker in the area?
“The plane that went to rescue then went missing was seen to blow up.”
It didn't vanish without a trace. Dr. Kruszelnicki blames many of the Bermuda Triangle theories on Charles Berlitz, author of the 1974 book The Bermuda Triangle, who said “the people and planes and ships that have reportedly disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle have been victims of some sort of electromagnetic disturbances that cause them to disintegrate and fall into the sea."
Does the Bermuda Triangle mystery needle point to Kruszelnicki, Berlitz or somewhere in the middle? Many Triangle vanishings like Flight 19 and its rescue plane have been explained by weather or errors. But not all of them. Statistics, trend analyses and extrapolations are excellent tools and reliable enough that Lloyds of London bets vast sums of money on them. But are they foolproof?
Who would you rather have planning your next Atlantic crossing – an actuary or an actual Bermuda Triangle believer?