BOOK: Larry Kusche, "The Bermuda Triangle Mystery - Solved" (cont.)
Lawrence David Kusche: The Bermuda Triangle Mystery — Solved. London: New English Library, 1975. 252 pp.
Bill Verity, a solo sailor, is sometimes reported as having disappeared in the Triangle near Puerto Rico. However, it turns out that he was merely blown off course by a hurricane, and turned up a few weeks later in San Salvador. Kusche even spoke to him by phone (p. 212). Similarly, the cabin cruiser Jillie Bean ‘disappeared’ in 1970, was sought for three days, not found — and then it sailed into port, the three crewmembers “were in no trouble and had no idea they were being sought” (p. 214). In short, anything unusual that happens in the area of the Triangle is quickly blamed by some authors on the supposed paranormal phenomena inside it (p. 230).
There's an chapter on the sinking of the tanker V. A. Fogg in 1972. It turns out that the tale was much embellished in the telling, but in this case the events were recent enough that Kusche was able to find out the truth directly from the people who were involved in the discovery of the ship (p. 225). Another interesting example is the sinking of the twin ships Norse Variant and Anita in 1973. They would have been perfect Triangle material if it hadn't been for the inconvenient fact that one of the crewmen of the Norse Variant survived and explained what happened (“a 40- by 40-foot hatch cover had been ripped off by the storm” and the ship sank in five minutes); p. 226.
There's also an interesting chapter on the Marine Sulphur Queen. Although the disappearance has not been definitely explained, there certainly seems to be no shortage of possibilities of explosion and structural failure (pp. 177–83).
The 63-foot fishing boat Sno' Boy sunk in unexplained circumstances in 1963.
However, the event becomes a little less mysterious when we learn that on board the
ship there were 55 people (the ship was intended for seven), not to mention 19 tons of ice
Pro-Triangle accounts of airplane disappearances often emphasize the fact that no debris has been found. But in several of these cases it turns out that the search started relatively late, because it took a while before the plane was missed at all; besides searching cannot be done at night, which sometimes causes yet more delay. Sometimes pilots of small planes neglect to file flight plans (where they would have to state the expected time of arrival, and a search would then be started as soon as the plane became overdue). And in the case of the passenger plane Star Ariel, flying from Bermuda to Kingston, the pilot told the Bermuda air traffic controller very early in the flight that he would be communicating with the Kingston air traffic controller from then on; Bermuda said OK, but Kingston never heard from him (p. 148). The problem is that Kingston didn't expect to hear from him until much later in the flight anyway, so that it was hours before anybody noticed that Star Ariel wasn't radioing its hourly position reports as it was supposed to. Even when the search eventually started, nobody had any clear idea of where along its course to look for the plane. Other cases of planes where the search started late were a Martin Marlin in 1956 (p. 165) and a KB-60 in 1962 (p. 172); however, in neither of these two cases was it possible to determine what exactly happened to the planes, so that in a way it wouldn't be fair to say that these two cases are “solved”. Something similar can be said of several small planes that disappeared in January 1967 (p. 199).
The chapter on Flight 19 is wonderfully detailed. In Kusche's view the whole event is rather mundane; a number of little things went wrong, all of which combined to result in the accident as we know it (p. 118). “Taylor [the leader of the group] had transferred to Fort Lauderdale not long before the flight” and wasn't yet quite familiar with the area; he couldn't decide whether he was west or east of Florida; “as a result he changed direction a number of times” (p. 115); he also stubbornly refused to change his radio frequency to 3000 kHz, although this would considerably improve the chances of successful communication with the ground stations (pp. 108, 115); the weather was also deteriorating throughout the afternoon (pp. 105, 116). “The dilemma was not that the men couldn't tell in which direction they were going, but rather that they couldn't decide which direction was the proper one to take.” (P. 116.) At some point the ground stations were able to compute the approximate position of Flight 19, but weren't able to report it to the pilots; first there was a delay because of a broken teletype machine, then the planes were no longer responding to messages from the ground (apparently they couldn't hear them, even though the ground stations could still hear the conversations between the planes); p. 110.
Regarding the Martin Mariner that disappeared as it went to search for Flight 19, Kusche points out that “Mariners were nicknamed ‘flying gas tanks’ because of the fumes that were often present, and a crewman sneaking a cigarette, or a spark from any source, could have caused the explosion.” (Pp. 116–7.) In the transcripts of the conversations quoted by Kusche, there isn't any sign of the statements commonly attributed to the Flight 19 pilots by the pro-Triangle authors (along the lines of “We don't know which way is west. Everything is wrong . . . strange . . . we can't be sure of any direction. Even the ocean doesn't look as it should!”, p. 99).
There's an extremely interesting chapter on the “Devil's sea” — an area near Japan with supposedly similar characteristics as the Bermuda Triangle. Kusche found that all mentions of the story in the West trace back to a handful of New York Times articles from 1952–55. He then made extensive enquiries in Japan and little by little found a mundane enough explanation for the whole thing. One ship was sunk by underwater volcanic activity (p. 233); several other ships were small fishing vessels and, as was common in those poverty-stricken years soon after the war, they were in poor condition and tended to lack radio equipment, so that disappearances all around Japan were nothing unusual (p. 234). The term ‘Devil's sea’ is almost unknown in Japan and seems to be a local appellation for a certain area of the sea (location and size not very clear); pp. 235, 237. “The story is based on nothing more than the loss of a few fishing boats twenty years ago in a 750-mile stretch of ocean over a period of five years. The tale has been reported so many times that it has come to be accepted as fact.” (P. 239.)
Finally there's a chapter about Ivan Sanderson's “Vile Vortex” theory, i.e. the idea that there are twelve “anomalic regions” around the world, one being the Bermuda Triangle, another the Devil's Sea, the others located around the world so as to form the vertices of an icosahedron. Kusche's debunking of this ridiculous bullshit is truly a delight to read (p. 242). “The writings that tell of the Vile Vortices show that the researchers first ‘suspected’ where the areas were and that evidence of any kind of ‘incident’ had ever occurred in the area was proof that it was ‘anomalous’. [. . .] All the parts, assumed or ‘proven’, were then joined to form the corners of equilateral triangles, and the creators marveled at the ‘orderliness of Nature’. ” (P. 242.)
All in all, this was a very, very interesting book. It was great to see how many of the events commonly mentioned in the Triangle lore actually have fairly probable everyday explanations. It was also amusing to see some examples of how the peddlers of the paranormal often treat the reports of anything even remotely unusual within the Triangle, inflating and embellishing and obscuring the stories beyond all reasonable bounds. And, finally, it was also very interesting to see that some few events nevertheless remain mysterious and quite unexplained. This, of course, does not mean that there must be any paranormal phenomenon at work behind them; it does, however, mean that these are the cases that are the most deserving of our attention and curiosity. So for me perhaps the greatest value of a book such as this one is that it helps you separate the really unexplained events from the ones that are only presented as such by the unscrupulous (or naive) promotors of the Triangle.
Rupert Gould: The Stargazer Talks (1944). Mentioned here on pp. 52–3 (“Gould was a skeptical and dilligent researcher who made authentic attempts to solve the mysteries that he encountered”).
Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall: The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst. Mentioned on p. 208. Crowhurst was participating in a sailing race but his boat, the Teignmouth Electron, was eventually found abandoned. It turned out that he had been cheating during the race and, realizing that this would certainly be discovered, he ended up committing suicide.
Gian Quasar's criticism of Kusche's book: link 1, link 2. Quasar later wrote his own pro-Triangle book, Into the Bermuda Triangle, where he peddles paranormal theories no less shamelessly than Berlitz, but at the same time he seems to have made honest and very thorough efforts at collecting archive material related to the various Triangle incidents, so I am inclined to think that there is some merit in his criticism of Kusche (although he is perhaps sometimes too hard on him).