A man of many quests

David Milloy

The Bermuda Triangle is a triangular shaped region of the North Atlantic, the corners of which are situated at Miami, San Juan on the island of Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. Over the centuries, many ships, boats and (in more recent times) aircraft have disappeared within or in close proximity to its boundaries, often without a distress call being made or any survivors, bodies or wreckage being found. In addition, the compasses of ships and aircraft have been affected by an anomalous magnetic force, and a phenomenon known as ‘electronic fog’ has enveloped aircraft and caused their instruments to behave erratically.

The Triangle (we’ll call it that for short) reached the height of its infamy in the 1970s following the publication of several books and films. But as with most mysteries, public interest in the Triangle waned and it returned to the long grass of semi-obscurity. And that’s where it remained until a young man named Gian Quasar took up the challenge of investigating its ever-growing catalogue of disappearances. His well-researched, evidence-based investigation into the mysteries of the Triangle has made him the go-to guy for anyone with a serious interest in the matter. He’s written books on the subject, appeared on numerous TV programmes, and now he’s been kind enough to grant an interview to Ayrshire Magazine. So without further ado, let’s meet the man himself.

How did you become interested in the Bermuda Triangle?
In 1990, I found a copy of Charles Berlitz’s book on the Bermuda Triangle (which sold in the millions back in the 1970s) in my father’s bookcase. It was the first book I’d read on the subject and I found it fascinating. That led me to seek out and read other books and newspaper articles about the Triangle. I very quickly realised two things: one, that there hadn’t been any credible books on the subject since 1979, and, two, that the newspaper articles contained very little detail. I wanted to know more, so I started looking for better information.

This was in the days before the internet, so finding sources of information, let alone being able to access that information, was more challenging than it is today. Nowadays, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has an online database which is publicly searchable, but there was no such facility when I started my investigation – I had to submit a written request for them to carry out a search. They did so, and I was staggered by the results. One thing that I was particularly struck by was that the records showed that about 40 more airplanes had gone missing in the Triangle during the 1960s and 1970s than were mentioned in any of the books on the subject. In addition, a further 75 airplanes had disappeared since the books were published. Boats, too, had continued to go missing in the Triangle.

And this prompted you to write a book?
It did. My first attempt at a book was in the mid-90s. It didn’t work out in terms of finding a publisher so I resumed my research, which included obtaining copies of accident reports from several countries, including the UK. By this time, the internet was starting to grow in popularity, so I set up my own website in 1999. It was an instant success, so much so that media companies on both sides of the Atlantic soon got in touch with me. I also kept working on the manuscript for my book, which I completed in 2002. I sent it to McGraw Hill and was very quickly offered a publishing deal for it.

That book is Into the Bermuda Triangle?
Yes. It came out in 2003. For a while, it looked like it might become a film – it was optioned by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner at Paramount, and Caspian Tredwell-Owen wrote a screenplay. Unfortunately, it was never filmed.

I wrote a follow up, which was published in 2018 as The Bermuda Triangle II: An Odyssey of the Sea. I’ve also written stand-alone books about a couple of famous Triangle disappearances.

One of those books being about the disappearance of Flight 19, five US Navy torpedo bombers on a training flight from their base at Fort Lauderdale in 1945?
Yes, They Flew into Oblivion was published in 2010 and is still my most popular book. Whilst still a manuscript, it inspired a Resolution in Congress (which was passed in November 2005) honouring the missing crews of Flight 19 and the Martin Mariner which disappeared when searching for them.

No physical trace of the planes or the crews of Flight 19 has ever been found. Where do you think they are?
You won’t find them at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and they weren’t spirited away by aliens! The evidence points to them having come down over land – unfortunately, it so happens to be one of the least accessible places on the Eastern seaboard of the USA.

As you mentioned, one of the planes searching for Flight 19 was also lost.
Yes, two Martin Mariner flying boats, each with a crew of 13, were scrambled from Banana River Naval Air Station. Sadly, one of them exploded off the coast of Florida. The explosion was seen by a freighter, the SS Gaines Mill, which went to the site of the explosion but did not find any debris.

That’s odd. Has anything ever been found of the Mariner?
Not to this day. It reportedly exploded in an area where the water is fairly shallow, about 75 feet deep, which should make hunting for wreckage fairly easy. I’ve been part of two teams, sponsored by TV companies, which searched the area for wreckage but came up empty-handed. Over 1300 Mariners were built, and although their crews called them ‘flying gas tanks’ they didn’t have a reputation for exploding in mid-air. It’s therefore strange that this one exploded, but the absence of wreckage is stranger still.

Talking of strange things, another classic Triangle case is that of Witchcraft, a 23-foot-long cabin cruiser which vanished off Miami in 1967.

What can you tell us about that case?
On 22nd December, Witchcraft’s owner had taken a friend, a local priest, out to see the Miami Christmas lights from the water. At 9.00pm, he sent a distress call to the Coast Guard, in which he explained that the boat had struck something and needed a tow. The position he gave was close to Buoy 7, situated at Government Cut, the main shipping channel into Miami, and less than a mile from the shore. There was no indication that Witchcraft was sinking, and in any event it had a buoyancy system which ensured that even if the boat became waterlogged, some part of it would float. The Coast Guard sent a vessel, which reached Buoy 7 less than 19 minutes after the distress call was received, but there was no sign of Witchcraft. No further radio messages were received from the owner nor were any distress flares seen. No trace of the boat or her occupants has ever been found.

And that’s in spite of a large-scale search?
Absolutely. It’s just one of many Triangle disappearances in which an exhaustive search has failed to turn up wreckage or bodies.

Another classic case of a vessel that vanished without trace is that of the USS Cyclops, a 522-feet-long naval collier that disappeared in 1918 with 306 people aboard. Cyclops’s master, Captain Worley, could be said to be the 20th century version of Captain Bligh. He was eccentric, liked a drink, sometimes to excess, and was somewhat mean-spirited to his crew. He faced a Naval Board of Inquiry as a result of a petition signed by forty members of his crew, but emerged from it without punishment or censure. And if his behaviour wasn’t sufficient cause for concern, it just so happened that he was German (his birth name was Wichman) and held pro-German views.

The relevance of that being that Cyclops was lost during World War I?
Exactly. There were other Germans in the crew as well, and with Cyclops making an unscheduled stop in Barbados to take on coal she didn’t need, it’s conceivable that Worley, with the aid of other German sympathisers on board, intended to take her across the Atlantic to a German port. She left Barbados, ostensibly heading for Baltimore, but has never been seen since. German records show that she wasn’t sunk by a U-boat or surface raider, and the delay in her voyage meant that she’d have missed a storm which she would otherwise have encountered if she was actually heading to Baltimore.

And, again, her loss wasn’t marked by survivors turning up or by wreckage or bodies being found?
That’s right. One reason for that might be that if she was heading for Germany then she might have been lost far from the area where she’s thought to have met her end. One thing’s for sure: if she was heading to Germany, she never made it there. I suspect that there may have been a mutiny aboard ship which resulted in her sinking.

I recall reading about the strange disappearance of a light aircraft near Puerto Rico in 1980. What can you tell us about that one?
The airplane, an Ercoupe 415-D, was flying from the Dominican Republic to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when the pilot reported that a “weird object” was blocking the way and had caused him to change direction several times. The Ercoupe was seen on military radar but disappeared from it about 35 miles from Puerto Rico. In spite of an extensive search, neither the airplane nor its occupants were ever found. The Ercoupe was owned by the father of one of the missing men. He was a police helicopter pilot and continued to search for his son long after the official search ended. He eventually came to the conclusion that his son and his friend had been taken by whatever it was that they had encountered. He referred to it as the ‘objeto luminoso’.

I believe that a recording of the distress call from the Ercoupe can be found on your website.
Yes. It’s a fourth generation copy that was provided to me by the sister of one of the missing men. There’s quite a lot of ‘noise’ on it but the pilot’s voice is clearly audible. I’ve also got a copy of the loss report, which includes a transcript of the radio communications from the airplane.

Am I right in thinking that the Triangle, like Scotland, has a case in which lighthouse keepers vanished?
Yes. Two lighthouse keepers disappeared from the lighthouse on Great Isaac Cay in the Bahamas in 1969. I’ve not been able to find out much about the circumstances in which they vanished, though, but as far as I’m aware there isn’t a definitive explanation for their disappearance.

There are literally hundreds of cases like the ones we’ve discussed. Is there an explanation for the loss and disappearance of so many craft?
There are lots of theories, some of which are more exotic than others, including the alleged existence of portals to another dimension! There isn’t, however, any single explanation for all of the disappearances. There’s no question, however, that the Triangle does have more than its fair share of anomalies – such as ‘electronic fog’, localised magnetic irregularities, and radio dead spots – which warrant further scientific examination.

Moving away from the Triangle, I believe that you’ve written books on other well-known mysteries?
Yes, I’ve written about Jack the Ripper, Bigfoot, and Amelia Earhart, and I’ve got a book coming out this year about the Zodiac killer.

What’s your take on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart?
Well, as many people know, she vanished whilst flying from Lae to Howland Island in the Pacific in 1937. Her route involved a very long flight over water with precious few islands within easy range if she encountered problems en route. We know that she must have got quite close to Howland Island but she never saw it nor was her plane seen by those on the island or the Coast Guard ship stationed off it. There are lots of theories as to what became of her, many of which seem to have her flying to distant islands in spite of the fact that she wouldn’t have had enough fuel to make them. The answer lies, I think, in radio messages which were picked up after lack of fuel would have compelled her to land or ditch her airplane. Some of those messages were clearly hoaxes but there are a few which may well be genuine. If so, I believe the messages point to her having landed or force-landed on a reef situated near either Howland Island or the Gilbert Islands, from which she sent out several radio messages before her airplane was swept off the reef.

You’ll have seen the recent sonar images that are said to be of her aircraft. Do you think that it has finally been found?
The sonar images look like they’re of a more recent type of airplane than Amelia’s Lockheed Electra, so I have my doubts. The searchers say they’re going to return with a camera-equipped ROV later this year, so we should know soon enough if it’s the Earhart airplane. But even if it is her airplane, it’s possible that she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took to their raft sometime after landing or ditching and drifted far from that location.

One final question: what’s the next subject you’re going to tackle?
Once Horror scope, my book on the Zodiac killer, comes out later this year, I’m going to have another crack at writing a novel as well as writing a book about the UFO phenomenon. I suspect my take on the latter might cause something of a stir in the UFO community!

You’ll find Gian’s website, which has details of many of the Triangle’s unsolved disappearances and links to his books, here: www.thequesterfiles.com. Like the mysteries it covers, it’s well worth investigating.