On Dec. 5, 1945, a squadron of U.S. Naval aircraft bombers disappeared off the coast of Florida in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle. Five torpedo bombers known as Flight 19 were lost and all 14 members vanished from the face of the earth. Nobody has ever found any remains. To make matters even crazier, the 13-man crew that was dispatched to find Flight 19 disappeared as well, just hours after embarking on its mission to find the lost flight.
As a man of science, I have more than a fleeting interest in discovering why 27 members of the world’s most powerful military, fresh off its victory in the world’s most devastating conflict ever (World War II), disappeared without a trace off the coast of Florida. Scientists, bless their hearts, have tried for years to explain the Bermuda Triangle, and in general I believe them, if only because the non-scientific explanations are even more unbelievable.
Hypotheses for the Bermuda Triangle include magnetic variations that disorient compasses, the powerful Gulf Stream, which can easily carry off floating objects into its wake, good old-fashioned human error, violent weather (do a Google search on “air bombs” if you have the time), and methane hydrates, which can sink ships by increasing the density of the water they are floating in. All of these are perfectly acceptable answers, and, should you find yourself in a bar or tavern discussing the Bermuda Triangle or Flight 19, you should defer to these explanations. If scientific analysis does not do the trick for you, just remember that the Bermuda Triangle is one of the most heavily-trafficked areas in the world and almost nothing has ever happened.
However, the disappearance of military men and equipment at the end of World War II is nothing to ignore. How was it possible that the world’s most powerful, utterly victorious military lost (and never recovered) 27 men and millions of dollars worth of equipment?
This is where conspiracy theories, paranormal explanations, and alien civilizations come into play. The most famous example might be that of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which used the crewmen of Flight 19 as protagonists for the hit film. If we take the UFO explanation to its logical conclusion then UFOs don’t seem like such a bad idea. Why wouldn’t aliens want to know more about American military might? The Americans had unleashed the atomic bomb, after all. The republic had bases and troops in the most strategically important places in the world (sans the Soviet Union). If aliens truly wanted to know more about human beings, abducting members of the best of the best would be the smart, efficient thing to do.
Less believable, perhaps, is the theory that the Bermuda Triangle is actually a wormhole into another dimension (or another part of the galaxy, depending on which version you hear). There is also the theory that the Bermuda Triangle is connected to the lost continent of Atlantis. The Bimini lines, or Bimini Road, can be seen from the air and look, at first glance, like a submerged road that was built by human hands. The geographic shape of the Caribbean, which looks like something did indeed fall into the ocean, lends credence to the idea that Atlantis lies below the surface of the Bermuda Triangle.
My money is on the air bombs, but if push came to shove I could see myself entertaining the alien hypothesis. As I write this, the funeral for George H.W. Bush blares on the television. Maybe the former head of the CIA knew the truth. Have you ever thought about why the head of the CIA would want to be president as well?
I’m kidding. Mysteries like Flight 19 will one day be solved. The answer will be boring and scientific. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun speculating, so long as the speculation doesn’t veer too far off course. Conspiracy theories, after all, lead to some pretty nefarious ways of thinking about the world.