Case Closed

Mysteries solved, secrets revealed, and questions finally answered

Aircraft parts were strewn by the Consolidated B-24D "Lady Be Good" as it skidded to a halt amid the otherwise emptiness of the desert. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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More than once, the search team thought they had located dubs of the original TV recordings. In one case, it was a tape stored for 36 years in the garage of a retired employee of the Australian Honeysuckle tracking station. All that time he had thought it was the Apollo 11 moonwalk, but it turned out to be simulation data from 1967.

There are no villains in this story. What looks in hindsight like a colossal blunder has a simple human explanation: No one in the 1970s, when the tapes were being stored at various archives, flagged them as being especially valuable. After all, the viewing public had seen the broadcast signals as the government had planned, and there was no digital technology yet to convert the original telemetry tapes to usable pictures. Still, NASA last year arranged for the broadcast-quality tapes to be digitally enhanced to improve the scenes we saw all those years ago. The space agency released the tapes as the nation marked the 40th anniversary of the moonwalk.

 Tony Reichhardt


Who’s Afraid of the Bermuda Triangle?

Not long after World War II, a heavily trafficked patch of the Atlantic Ocean began gaining a reputation as a place to avoid: A number of airplanes and ships had vanished after entering a triangular area, its three points in Miami, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda.

One of the more famous disappearances happened on December 5, 1945, when five U.S. Navy TBM Avengers on a training mission were lost. The compass of the lead airplane malfunctioned, and all the airplanes probably ran out of fuel. One of the search-and-rescue aircraft, a PBM-5 Mariner, also disappeared; the Navy chalked it up to a mid-air explosion. In the late 1940s, several commercial flights, including a Douglas DC-3 and an Avro Tudor IV, vanished as well, causing the public to wonder what was going on in the area that became known later as the Bermuda Triangle. (The term was coined in a 1964 article in a U.S. pulp magazine.)

“People were scared in that whole cold war era. They didn’t expect airplanes to go missing,” says Dorothy Cochrane, an aeronautics curator at the National Air and Space Museum. “You had a lack of communications technology, and meteorological science wasn’t all that great. So it gave rise to all these theories.”

It wasn’t long before magazines like Fate and Argosy put a supernatural spin on the disappearances, and the Triangle became topic A for fans of the paranormal.

For serious thinkers, the case of the spooky Triangle has been closed since Larry Kusche wrote his landmark 1975 book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved. Today, hurricanes, human error, and compass variations and deviations are only a few of the culprits that cause the Navy and the Coast Guard to conclude that no more airplanes and ships are lost there than in other regions of the world with similar climate and shipping or air traffic. Oh, and the purported releases of methane from the sea floor that turn the surface into a ship-swallowing froth? Some people believe it. The Skeptic’s Dictionary Web site ( calls it “oceanic flatulence.”


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