Home' Greymouth Star : December 9th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
he message picked up by
the control tower was as
bizarre as it was alarming.
“ Everything looks
strange,” said the pilot. “ It
looks like we’re entering
white water. We’re completely lost. ”
There were a few more crackles and then
silence. It was December 5, 1945, and
the five planes of Flight 19 — a military
training mission from Fort Lauderdale,
Florida — had vanished.
The disappearance of Flight 19 became
one of the world’s most enduring aviation
mysteries. No wreckage was found, despite
an extensive search, and nor were any
bodies recovered. The planes and their 14
crewmen seemed to have disappeared into
There was frenzied speculation, and,
before long, the birth of an extraordinary
myth: an area of ocean that became
known as the Bermuda Triangle, in which
unexplained and seemingly paranormal
incidents occurred with alarming
Now, seven decades after their
disappearance, the truth about the planes
and the Bermuda Triangle can be revealed.
It is a tale of fantasy, duplicity and wishful
thinking — one that brought enormous
wealth to a handful of individuals.
Within hours of the five Avengers
disappearing from the radar, a PBM-
Mariner seaplane was sent on a
search-and-rescue mission. Its pilot made
a routine radio call at 7.30pm indicating
his position. Soon after wards, the Mariner
also vanished from the radar. Neither the
plane, nor her 13 crew, were seen again.
The disappearance of six planes in one
day was mysterious enough, but a further
three planes went missing in the same
area in 1948 and 1949, and a yacht, the
Connemara IV, was found adrift and
without its crew in 1955. A few years
later, two US Air Force Stratotankers also
The media began to speculate: citing
compass variation, tropical storms and the
Gulf Stream’s unpredictable currents. But
one theory caught the imagination: all the
losses had occurred in about 2.5 million
square km between Miami, Puerto Rico
In February 1963, a freelance writer,
Vincent Gaddis, wrote a sensational
article for Argosy magazine claiming that
supernatural forces were at work in this
triangular bit of ocean.
Gaddis’s article contained much
speculation, little evidence and precious
few facts. But his timing was perfect: ‘The
Deadly Bermuda Triangle’ was published
shortly after the two Stratotankers were
“The mysterious menace that haunts the
Atlantic off the south-eastern coastline has
claimed two more victims,” wrote Gaddis.
“Before this article reaches print, it may
strike again, swallowing a plane or ship, or
leaving behind a derelict (vessel), with no
The article was a masterpiece of
conspiratorial fantasy, suggesting that dark
forces were at work.
“Despite swift wings and the voice of
radio, we still have a world large enough
so that men and their machines and ships
can disappear without trace.”
Others were quick to cash in. Scores of
books were published — many became
bestsellers — with the most popular being
Charles Berlitz’s The Bermuda Triangle,
published in 1974.
It sold 20 million copies in more than 30
languages — blaming the losses on aliens
and sur vivors from Atlantis.
Berlitz’s theories were so popular that
when Steven Spielberg made Close
Encounters of the Third Kind, he depicted
the Flight 19 aircrews as having been
abducted by aliens.
At the time of the loss, much
attention was focused on the squadron’s
leader, Lieutenant Charles Taylor. An
accomplished pilot with 2500 hours of
flying experience, he had an unblemished
record as an instructor. His student pilots
were also highly capable, having clocked
up some 300 hours of flying time.
The planes were fully fuelled and had
passed all their pre-flight checks. They
took off without incident at 2.10pm and
were soon heading due east, towards
Abaco Island in the northern Bahamas.
Snatches of the radio conversations
between the crews allow for a partial
reconstruction. Around 3.40pm, one was
heard asking for a compass reading.
“I don’t know where we are,” was the
“ We must have got lost after that last
Minutes later, Taylor said: “Both my
compasses are out and I am trying to find
Fort Lauderdale, Florida.”
He attempted to locate his position by
studying the islands below.
“ I am over land but it is broken,” he said.
“I am sure I’m in the Florida Keys, but I
don’t know how far down.”
His words give the first inkling of the
disaster to come. His planes had strayed
from their planned route due to faulty
compasses: Taylor was almost certainly
looking at the Bahamas. By swinging east
into the Atlantic.
A dissenting voice was heard on the
radio. “Dammit, if we could just fly west,
we would get home. Head west, dammit.”
Someone, it seems, knew that they were
on course for disaster.
The ground staff made frantic efforts to
contact Taylor, but their messages were not
picked up. They eventually triangulated
Flight 19’s position and it was alarming.
The planes were north of the Bahamas,
kilometres from land.
“All planes, c lose up tight,” radioed
Taylor at 6.20pm.
“ We’ ll have to ditch unless landfall.
When the first plane drops below 10
gallons, we all go down together.”
The final moments of Flight 19 must
be speculation: the planes presumably
ditched into the ocean, where conditions
had deteriorated since they left Fort
Lauderdale. The choppy sea would
have soon swallowed the heavy
The US Navy immediately opened an
investigation into the missing Avengers,
as well as the PBM-Mariner. The latter
plane was widely held to have exploded in
mid-air — a hypothesis reinforced by the
testimony of Captain Shonna Stanley of
the SS Gaines Mills: he saw a ball of fire
in the sky at exactly the time the search
plane went missing.
As for the Avengers, it was concluded
that human error and compass
malfunction caused the tragedy. Taylor
had wrongly believed himself to be over
the Florida Keys; each change of course
took his formation further out to sea. He
had previously been based in Miami and
was unfamiliar with the Fort Lauderdale
One by one, the Bermuda Triangle’s
supposed mysteries have been solved. The
Connemara IV was washed out to sea
(without its crew) during a hurricane and
the two Stratotankers collided and crashed
in the Atlantic. And Lloyds of London
said losses were no higher there than in
any other area.
But Gaddis refused to accept the
findings and set to work on his
supposition that supernatural forces were
responsible — and the Bermuda Triangle
— Fascinating Footnotes From History,
by Giles Milton is published by John
Strange Phenomena — and how to
Written in verse, the letters of 16th-
century French philosopher Michel de
Nostredame have long been credited with
predicting the French Revolution, the
rises of Napoleon and Hitler and the 9/11
attacks on the Twin Towers. The vagueness
of the descriptions have encouraged
conspiracy theorists — despite so many
prophecies, not least the end of the world
in 1999, never coming true.
There are countless theories as to how
crops come to be flattened in elaborate
patterns of geometric lines and circles.
But rather than being a supernatural
phenomenon, or created by the landing
gear of extra-terrestrial spacecraft, the only
known cause is human.
Speculation over what happened to the
crew of the brigantine, found adrift in the
Atlantic in 1872, has been fuelled by a
lack of evidence to support suggestions of
piracy or mutiny. In 2006, a UCL scientist
posited that an explosion caused by
alcohol leaking from the cargo, could have
caused “a pressure-wave type of explosion”,
killing the crew.
Spontaneous human combustion
According to hundreds of accounts,
people have caught fire and burnt slowly,
without scorching their surroundings.
One theory for it — which leaves a yellow,
foul-smelling grease surrounding the
remains — is a build-up of methane that
is ignited by enzymes or static electricity.
But many scientists believe the victims
died after falling asleep with a cigarette,
suffocated and, in a slow-burning process
known as the wick effect, were cremated.
“Blue or gold dress?”
Dressgate divided a nation this year,
when a party dress appeared to be blue
and black or gold and white, depending on
the environment and screen on which the
digital photograph was viewed. (It was, in
fact, blue and black.)
A remote area of desert in Nevada
is a magnet for conspiracy theorists,
who believe post-war United States
governments hid evidence of alien life
there. Recently released documents,
however, show it was used during World
War Two as a gunnery range for pilots.
4 - Wednesday, December 9, 2015
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and — except for e-mails — your signature. Noms
de plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
within 300 words. Letter writers will generally not
be published more often than weekly. The Editor
reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
e-mail to email@example.com
uLetters to the editor
1854 - Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The
Charge of the Light Brigade is published in
1868 - W E Gladstone becomes
British prime minister for the first of his four
1940 - British 8th Army opens
offensive in North Africa in World
1975 - Death toll is put at 160
in two days as war rages between
Muslims and Christians in Beirut,
1990 - Poles elect Lech Walesa president in
Poland’s first free elections.
1992 - Prince Charles and Princess Diana of
Britain announce they are separating but have
no plans to divorce.
1994 - After 25 years of violence, the Irish
Republican Army sits down with British
officials to talk peace.
1997 - The last Australian sur vivor who
landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, Ted
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
John Milton, English poet (1608-1674);
Clarence Birdseye, US frozen food inventor
(1886-1956); Douglas Fairbanks Jr, US actor
(1909-2000); Kirk Douglas, US actor (1916-
); Dick Van Patten, US actor
(1928-2015); Bob Hawke, former
Australian prime minister (1929-);
Dame Judi Dench, British actress
(1934-); Beau Bridges, US actor
(1941-); Joan Armatrading, British
singer-songwriter (1950-); Donny
Osmond, US singer (1957-);
Tre Cool, rock musician of Green Day fame
“The well of Providence is deep. It’s the
buckets we bring to it that are small.” — Mary
Webb, Scottish religious leader. (c. 1881-1927).
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and
wrapped Him in bands of cloth, and laid Him
in a manger, because there was no place for
them in the inn. ” — (Luke 2:7).
Infants Creek at
on an aura of the
past on Saturday
afternoon when Greymouth Rotarians, dressed
appropriately, eagerly dipped pans in its waters
in their quest for gold. The Rotarians were the
guests of Mr A L Sutherland, who entertained
them at his claim at Rutherglen. Also present
were wives and children, making a complement
of over 100.
Gold fever quickly spread through the group
and many spent long periods carefully swilling
dirt and water in their pans, eagerly looking
for a yellow speck. Mr Sutherland has been
working the claim for about six months. He
intends it to be a tourist attraction, and already
he has received a number of bookings by keen
prospectors. He hopes the claim will be in full
operation by early next month.
“ It should be a great thing for Greymouth,”
he said this morning.
Hokitika hotels are feeling the impact of two
important events — the advent of television
and the opening of the Haast Pass road. So far
all the effects are promising.
Publicans and their wives are old enough
hands to turn the telly off when programmes
do not appeal, and the hotels are getting quite
a startling array of tourists from many parts of
the world, all heading through the Haast Pass.
A total average of 1840 motor vehicles travel
over the Smith Street deviation daily, last
night’s meeting of the West Coast branch of
the Automobile Association (Canterbury) was
Ministry of Works engineer Mr W G McKay
said the figures had been worked out over a
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
Fact, fiction and fantasy
Berries from China
Why are we importing berries from
We can grow blackberries, raspberries,
strawberries, blueberries and blackcurrants
on the West Coast. Why don’t we? It
would create employment.
Some of our dairy farms could be turned
into berry farms — hepatitis free, cruelty
I recently received a pile of cow manure
in my mailbox — something about
changing the New Zealand flag — and
then found out it was going to cost the
taxpayers $26 million to contact everyone
I am a supporter of the RSA and respect
the old soldiers more than the politicians.
They fought for the existing flag, and the
money would be better spent on some
hospital or other worthwhile hospice.
If they insist on a new flag it should
read ‘Ban 1080’ with skull and crossbones.
How dare they fill my mailbox with such
Wash day blues
It does not come as a surprise to hear
about two models of the Haier top-
loading washing machine that have been
under an electrical safety recall, as for
the past four months I have twice had
problems with my washing machine.
Luckily for me on both occasions, by a
nose, it was still under warranty, which ran
out on December 6.
Winz paid for the appliance, but it has
been stressful and inconvenient for me
dealing with Fisher and Paykel. I write
this letter so other consumers can be aware
of Fisher and Paykel products, as I have
been without a washing machine for a few
It is with much sorrow that I read the
account of the Auckland council to ban
all mention of ‘Christmas’ on their office
decorations. We are a nominally Christian
country, I am sure that Christian religion
here in New Zealand has larger numbers
than that of Shintoism, Buddhism, Sikhs,
Hindus and Muslims.
I see that they will include the slogan
‘Happy Holidays’. Hot news: holidays
means ‘holy days’ so you slipped up there.
I am sick to death of the PC brigade
falling over backwards to pander to all
the various foreigners who throng here.
If I went to Saudi Arabia I would have to
obser ve Ramadan etc (when in Rome, do
as the Romans do).
Have ghastly recollection of tv news
items concerning a load of escapees from
the Sudan, rescued by the Italians, landing
on Italian soil and seeing crosses, angrily
saying, ‘ This is a Catholic place and we
are Muslims’. ‘ The one true faith’ — what
arrogance. Why on earth do Muslims
all over the world insist on their hosts
obser ving such Islamic customs as Sharia
law, multiple wives, mutilation of women,
child-brides, stoning to death a woman
taken in adultery?
If it is good enough for us to cheerfully
celebrate Diwali, or have Buddhist,
mosques or temples in our midst, if we are
well-bred and civil enough to respect other
folks’ religious customs, then the very least
that these strangers could do would be to
respect our religious festivals.
These arrogant attitudes amount to
forcing out our own obser vances of the
greatest religious Christian festivals of the
year, so let ’s hope all the newcomers will
be wishing one another ‘Merry Christmas’.
New model of
A further comment about inept
incident investigations is warranted as the
implementation of a new health strategy
requires an effective system of monitoring.
The recent article in the magazine for
GPs described how the experts used in
the Health and Disability Commissioner
investigation lacked the necessary clinical
expertise to provide the opinions.
In addition to the flawed findings,
individual GPs were unjustly and
maliciously faulted. Such harassment
causes reduced error reporting due to
fear of retribution. Standards of care and
quality assurance is compromised in many
Use of experts without relevant expertise
can conceal serious systemic flaws. In local
cases, sometimes key expert reports were
missing and others modified to conceal
serious errors while highlighting minor
errors. If not due to lack of competence,
these would fit the legal definitions of
crimes such as conspiring to defeat the
course of justice, corruption of witnesses,
perjury and more for recurring harm due
to lack of due care.
The new model of health ‘care’ has less
diversity and depth of expertise within the
local clinical team. It should be obvious to
anyone with an understanding of modern
health care that it will decrease the scope
Smaller secondary care hospitals have
fewer personnel on site. To compensate,
the on site team has to have some senior
clinicians with appropriate additional
training and experience. The training and
continuing education required for a senior
clinician in a small hospital is different to
a tertiary hospital and has to be adapted
for the specific role within a team.
In the new model of care, with less
on site expertise, patients have been
harmed as a result of unscrutinised
telephone advice and misused protocols.
The promotion of the new model of care
has only been possible due to the lack of
competence and the corruption of the
incident investigation system.
District health board boss David Meates
refers to an ‘electronic safety system’
helping staff to be ‘open and transparent ’
when a patient is harmed while receiving
care â€¦’ (Greymouth Star, December 4).
Excuse my hollow laughter, but
those who follow these events — and
particularly those who have suffered
unnecessarily under DHB treatment as
Dr Lasantha Martinus — as repeatedly
pointed out in this newspaper, might be
excused for asking, will the bureaucrats
including the DHB corporate solicitors
who fudge the issues when patients and-
or their families try to get satisfactory
responses to legitimate complaints,
now receive openness and transparency
instead of the appalling run around they
experience when they ask questions the
authorities do not want to answer?
I am sure the great majority of medical
staff do want to be ‘open and transparent ’
when problems occur — providing of
course that they have not been got rid
of by management, as occurs all too
frequently — but judging by the many
cases brought to my attention over the
years, openness and transparency are not
qualities welcomed under the cover-up
agendas so often seen from the health
bureaucracy when treatment goes terribly
I am currently in the process of making
these issues known to the Health Minister,
the Ombudsmen, the Health and
Disability Commissioner (HDC), and the
latest health bureaucracy to come to my
attention — the so-called ‘Health Quality
and Safety Commission’ (HQ and SC)
— a government agency set up in 2010,
with a current $13 million budget, a board
whom the chief executive and chairman
will not show my letters to, a staff of over
50, and a horde of so-called ‘consumer
representatives’ who appear to function
in total secrecy as far as the public are
When we have successive health
ministers who tell me it is ‘not appropriate’
for them to get involved in DHB matters,
a HDC who routinely takes three years or
more to consider complaints, Ombudsmen
who refer me back to the commissioner
when I raise questions about his processes,
consider individual cases (where is the
consumer representation in that?), it is
ludicrous for anyone to claim openness
and transparency in this heavily flawed
Come off it Mr Meates. Not everyone
out here is blinded by bureaucracy.
Democrats for Social Credit
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