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‘Secrets of the Bermuda Triangle’ review: Never underestimate Nature’s push back

Presenters Rick Edwards and Ortis Deley with the shoreline of Bermuda behind them   | Photo Credit: BBC Studios

An area of roughly half a million miles between Bermuda, Miami and Puerto Rico form the infamous Bermuda Triangle where countless ships and planes have vanished without a trace. Secrets of the Bermuda Triangle attempts to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of massive naval cargo ships and torpedo bombers. This three-part documentary hosted by Rick Edwards and Ortis Deley eschews the sensational for the sensible and is no less thrilling for it.

The brilliantly blue waters of the Atlantic teeming with life and colour form a spectacular backdrop as Edwards and Deley meet sailors (including a foolhardy one who packed for a day trip and was lost at sea for 16 days), physicists, meteorologists, academics and coastguards among other experts to uncover the secrets of the triangle.

The first episode looks at the disappearance of the USS Cyclops with 309 souls on board. In 1918, this American naval cargo ship carrying 10,000 tonnes of manganese ore left Barbados for Baltimore on March 4 and was never heard of again. While there are several theories including one involving a giant squid (a personal favourite) the show posits the theory of a rogue wave that could cause the heavily-loaded ship to snap in two and sink in minutes.

The fact that one does not need a license to sail a leisure craft has caused many inexperienced sailors to come to grief on the open ocean which “is a terrifying adversary.” The sea does not suffer fools gladly as the documentary makes clear. As one old salt explains, one should never underestimate Mother Nature. Another experienced sailor lists out signs of a storm from mare-tail clouds and warning squalls to the smell of a storm, which he describes as “earthy and dank.”

While the first episode looks at the water, the second episode looks at disappearances in the air focusing on the disappearance of Flight 19. On December 5, 1945, five Avenger torpedo bombers led by Lieutenant Charles Taylor set off on a routine mission never to return. Hearing Taylor’s last recorded message, “We all go down together,” is especially poignant. Deley reveals how easy it is to get disorientated in a flight simulator under controlled conditions. It is not difficult to imagine the doomed pilots going off course in inclement weather and running out of fuel to crash into the sea.

Deley and Edwards talk to scientists and weather people about micro bursts (rain bombs), which plague the area making navigation even more difficult. The show details the history of the notorious area from Christopher Columbus finding his compass acting strange in 1493 to journalist Edward Van Winkle Jones’ article in 1950 about the disappearances in the triangle and Charles Berlitz 1974 bestseller The Bermuda Triangle. While the mind-bending sighting of ghost ships has a pretty name—Fata Morgana, it is explained by physics and the bending of light. The story behind Morgan’s cloud in Bermuda gets a mention as do UFO enthusiasts who blame visiting aliens for the disappearances.

The second episode ends with Edwards visiting a plane wreck site from 1963. Seeing the ocean floor strewn with the wreckage of the ill-fated B50 bomber is emblematic of our constant efforts to best Nature and her inexorable and inevitable push back.

Secrets of the Bermuda Triangle premieres on August 3 at 9 pm on Sony BBC Earth

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Printable version | Jul 20, 2021 8:10:25 PM |

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