Friday, May 13, 2011

Of mysteries and men

I just got Gian J. Quasar's latest book, Hell Ship: The Last Voyage of the USS Cyclops.

I found Quasar's first book, Into the Bermuda Triangle: Pursuing the Truth Behind the World's Greatest Mystery, a bit of a disappointment inasmuch as while it was interesting it also seemed to wander aimlessly at times, mentioning some of the disappearances while not really delving into any of them.  His second book may explain why he chose such an approach, however. 

They Flew Into Oblivion: The Disappearance of Flight 19 was a home run.  Quasar did some expert research into the disappearance of a training flight of 5 US Navy TBM Avenger torpedo bombers flying out of Fort Lauderdale over the Atlantic in December 1945.  Written like a thriller, Quasar makes a persuasive case using eyewitness accounts and radar tracks that, far from being taken by the Bermuda Triangle in some paranormal event, the end of Flight 19 was actually explainable and, indeed, ghastly.  Their compasses having malfunctioned over the Bahamas, radio reception being problematic, weather turning stormy, night approaching and little radar help available, flight leader Charles Taylor became convinced he was over the Gulf of Mexico.  Taylor was apparently overruled by his wingman who was rightly convinced that they were over the Atlantic, and they headed back towards land, but to the northwest.  Ultimately, they did reach land, but in the darkness did not realize it.  The land was not Fort Lauderdale or, maybe, even Florida, but the vast Okefenokee Swamp on the Florida-Georgia border, where Flight 19 ran out of fuel and crashed into a tangled mess of acidic water, twisted trees, moving islands, and thick underbrush -- and home to one of the largest communities of alligators in the world.  It is a tragic but gripping story and I highly recommend it.

Hell Ship deals with another mysterious disappearance attributed to the Bermuda Triangle: that of the USS Cyclops in 1918.  A US Navy collier, the Cyclops was rumored to be a latter-day HMS Bounty, with a bizarre and abusive commanding officer.  Her last voyage was plagued with the captain's poor navigation, mechanical problems, unexplained stops, stories of murder on board and suspicion of treason by the captain.  The Cyclops never returned to the US and her fate is unknown.  Given Quasar's excellent work on Flight 19, I can't wait to get his take on the Cyclops mystery.

On some related notes, I am still trying to read Bland Simpson's Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals: The Mystery of the Carroll A. Deering. In another mystery attributed to the Bermuda Triangle, the Deering was a four-masted schooner that was found aground and abandoned off Cape Hatteras in 1921.  The crew was never found.  Rumors of mutiny and piracy surround her last voyage.  Unfortunately, my copy of the book was warped and ripped when I received it, so I've been trying to straighten it out before getting into it.

I also just finished watching my TiVo'd Secrets of the Dead dealing with the disappearance of Percy Fawcett.  In 1925, Fawcett, one of the last great British explorers, led a small expedition to find a legendary city that he called "Z" or "Zed" deep in the Amazon jungle.  Fawcett was an experienced explorer who knew what he was doing, but this expedition, consisting only of himself, his son and a friend of his son's, was woefully underfunded, which may have doomed it -- literally.  After departing from a friendly Indian tribe to continue onward and sending dispatches detailing his progress back to a newspaper, which was paying for the expedition, Fawcett and his cohorts were never heard from again. 

The disappearance of Fawcett has produced many theories but little evidence, and what little evidence there is is completely ambiguous.  Secrets of the Dead, pointing to the reappearance of Fawcett's ring in the 1970's, suspects that Fawcett and his crew were murdered by bandits.

The show was disappointing inasmuch as they did little to set up what is known about the expedition before they just took off trying to follow it, adding in details along the way.  That made the track of their investigation difficult to understand at times.  Nevertheless it was very interesting and worthwhile to watch.

1 comment:

  1. My, my, thank you. Very nice review.