From the Adventurer’s Notebook:
I am looking at the possibility of a trip in our our Beechcrate to the Bahamas next year.
Not that we have to do it, but it would be a lot of fun. It has been years since I’ve been to Eleuthera, one of the longer islands in the Bahamas. We might even hop-skip down to the Dominican Republic, depending don time, money, and markets.
Studying a bunch of maps, as one does at this stage of adventure planning, it looks like the easiest route would be from West Palm, or maybe Boca Raton, and from there a short over-water hop (with all the recommended safety gear) to Freeport direct, or go further south and take a shorter hop over and clear in at South Bimini.
While part of the agenda would be sun and fun, and maybe a buck of three into the slots at Freeport or Nassau, the small matter of preparing to deal with the Bermuda Triangle comes up.
If you’re think “Ure’s gone nuts…that’s just all hype…” I can assure you it’s not.
I may have mentioned before a marvelous book written a while back titled The Fog: A Never Before Published Theory of the Bermuda Triangle Phenomenon.
There’s a very good (and lengthy) description of what’s in the book, written by Rob McGregor involving the flying done by Bruce Gernon. From the Amazon extract:
“Gernon was piloting their new Bonanza A36, a stable and smooth-flying aircraft. Even today, more than three decades later, the Bonanza airframe remains relatively unchanged and is one of general aviation’s finest performing airplanes. If he had been flying a slower and less stable aircraft that day, Gernon believes that he may not have survived the flight. Although he had planned to take off in the morning, ever the cautious pilot, Gernon delayed the flight until the weather improved. “We waited all morning while it rained and it was close to 3:00 PM when my dad and I, along with Chuck Layfayette, a business associate, took off from Andros Town Airport.”
He remembered that the sky was overcast and a light mist was falling. “Weather information wasn’t available, so I decided to get airborne, then call Miami Flight Service for atmospheric conditions.” As they made a turn after departing the runway, Gernon looked over to the terminal where he saw his friend, John Woolbright, waving to him. Woolbright was a mathematician at the Atlantic Undersea Test Evaluation Cen(AUTEC), a navy facility based on the island, which, ironically, would play a role in the Bermuda Triangle mystery.
They climbed to 1,000 feet and assumed a heading of 315 degrees. They couldn’t go any higher because of a cloud ceiling at 1,500 feet. “My father was also a pilot and an expert navigator, so we flew the plane together on a direct route to Bimini. We tuned into the Bimini radio beacon on our automatic direction finder, and also used a magnetic compass.”
They were cruising at 180 miles an hour and had been flying for about ten minutes when the drizzle ended and the skies cleared. By then, they had reached the northwest end of Andros Island and were flying over the ocean shallows of the Great Bahama Bank. The visibility had improved from about three miles to ten miles and the weather ahead appeared non threatening.
As they started to gain altitude, Gernon noticed an almond-shaped lenticular cloud directly in front of them, about a mile away. While other clouds move across the sky with the air currents, lenticular clouds tend to remain stationary. The cloud appeared to be about a mile-and-a-half long and a thousand feet thick, with the top of it reaching an altitude of 1,500 feet. It was white, with smooth edges and appeared inoffensive. However, he found one thing odd about the cloud.
“I’d seen quite a few lenticular-shaped clouds, but never at such a low altitude. They are usually up at 20,000 feet.”
As the book develops, this lenticular cloud begins to expand, rapidly, and morphs into a huge horseshoe-shaped cloud that is some miles across, and over the next half-hour, it begins to overtake and then encircle the Bonanza.
I won’t spoil the book. which has damn fine descriptions of the electrical failures and the spinning compass, and all that which followed.
The important thing to share is that Bruce Gernon is an excellent pilot and he realizes (with this horseshoe shaped cloud, quickly encircling the Bonanza) that he is dealing with an electrical phenomena, and that his air-driven instruments were the only way to fly out of the troubles at hand.
For someone like me (a bit of a nut when comes to research and details of adventure planning) this was a huge revelation in two respects.
First, Gernon’s description of the low lenticular cloud and secondly the air-driven instruments call.
The lenticular clouds (and we’ve seen several while flying) are normally places like around tops of mountains…and usually well above us when flying. They are also called “Earthquake Clouds” and about here, things get interesting for the “odd science sleuth.”
Lenticular clouds (Altocumulus lenticularis) are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form in the troposphere, normally in perpendicular alignment to the wind direction. Lenticular clouds can be separated into altocumulus standing lenticularis (ACSL), stratocumulus standing lenticular (SCSL), and cirrocumulus standing lenticular (CCSL). Because of their shape, they have been offered as an explanation for some Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) sightings.
The Wikipedia report continues with details as to how these clouds are formed:
As air flows along the surface of the Earth, it encounters obstructions. These are man-made objects, such as buildings and bridges, and natural features, like hills, valleys, and mountains. All of them disrupt the flow of air into eddies. The strength of the eddies depends on the size of the object and the speed of the wind. It results in turbulence classified as ‘mechanical’ because it is formed through the “mechanical disruption of the ambient wind flow”. Where stable moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains, a series of large-scale standing waves may form on the downwind side. If the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to the dew point, moisture in the air may condense to form lenticular clouds. As the moist air moves back down into the trough of the wave, the cloud may evaporate back into vapor. Under certain conditions, long strings of lenticular clouds can form near the crest of each successive wave, creating a formation known as a “wave cloud.” The wave systems cause large vertical air movement, enough that water vapor may condense to produce precipitation. The clouds have been mistaken for UFOs (or “visual cover” for UFOs), particularly the round “flying saucer”-type, because these clouds have a characteristic lens appearance and smooth saucer-like shape; also, because lenticular clouds generally do not form over low-lying or flat terrain, many people have never seen one and are not aware clouds with that shape can exist. Bright colors (called irisation) are sometimes seen along the edge of lenticular clouds. These clouds have also been known to form in cases where a mountain does not exist, but rather as the result of shear winds created by a front.
The Wikipedia entry then continues on with how glider pilots often seek out these clouds in their quest for lift.
Lenticular clouds are also thought of as being associated with “earthquake clouds.”
Earthquake clouds are clouds claimed to be signs of imminent earthquakes. They have been described in antiquity: In chapter 32 of his work Brihat Samhita, Indian scholar Varahamihira (505–587) discussed a number of signs warning of earthquakes, including extraordinary clouds occurring a week before the earthquake. In modern times, a few scientists claim to have observed clouds associated with a seismic event, sometimes more than 50 days in advance of the earthquake. Some have even claimed to accurately predict earthquake occurrences by observing clouds. However, these claims have very little support in the scientific community
We find it interesting that a satellite has grabbed a picture of an “earthquake cloud” over Japan, but (being cheap) weren’t willing to spend the $48 bucks to get more details than what is included in this abstract of the work:
Thermal anomaly detected by satellite before earthquake has been widely reported. Here we reported a new anomaly detected with geostationary satellite image. The geostationary satellite image series were combined together to make an animation, and it is found that the common cloud moved continuously, while the earthquake cloud stayed closely to the epicenter. Here an earthquake cloud example in Japan was reported.
When you read “The Fog” you’ll find another example, years later, of another case of “odd fog” so there may very well be something – as Gernon (and McGregor) suggest – to the idea that under certain conditions there is a lenticular-like, but low altitude fog that is associated with earthquakes.
And maybe time-space warping.
We have been reading about such effects for years: there is plenty of discussion of “earthquake lights” to be found:
The lights are reported to appear while an earthquake is occurring, although there are reports of lights before or after earthquakes, such as reports concerning the 1975 Kalapana earthquake. They are reported to have shapes similar to those of the auroras, with a white to bluish hue, but occasionally they have been reported having a wider color spectrum. The luminosity is reported to be visible for several seconds, but has also been reported to last for tens of minutes. Accounts of viewable distance from the epicenter varies: in the 1930 Idu earthquake, lights were reported up to 70 miles (110 km) from the epicenter. Earthquake lights were reportedly spotted in Tianshui, Gansu, approximately 400 kilometres (250 mi) north-northeast of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake‘s epicenter. During the 2007 Peru earthquake lights were seen in the skies above the sea and filmed by many people. The phenomenon was also observed and caught on film during the 2009 L’Aquila and the 2010 Chile earthquakes. Video footage has also recorded this happening during the 9 April 2011 eruption of Sakurajima Volcano, Japan.
Again, because the earthquake lights are a luminescence event that comes before earthquakes, it is almost surely an electromagnetic effect.
I’m fairly skeptical of individual reports on woo-woo phenomena, but Gernon’s descriptions in the book make a tremendous amount of sense to a pilot.
Disorientation of the famous Flight 19 fighter group reported seem very much in concert with pilot reaction to unanticipated instrument flight and without the distinction between air and electric instruments,, their sorry end was all but assured.
And that gets me to the reason why we should expect more aircraft to be lost to such phenomena in the not-so-distant future. That’s because of?
The Disappearance of Air-Driven Instruments
The key reason by Gernon was able to survive his reported encounter is simple: When his aircraft encountered the anomalous phenomena, he was competent enough to quickly switch to air-driven instruments in his Beech Bonanza.
There are, and here comes some education for you, three-types of instruments found in aircraft.
To begin with, there are air-driven instruments. The obvious ones are those connected to the pitot-static system. Augmenting ram air there is a vacuum pump on the engine that produces a modest –5 pounds per square inch to power air-driven gyroscopes.
By the time it’s all hooked up, you have an air speed indicator, altimeter, and in many cases, a directional gyroscope and sometimes an artificial horizon. All powered by air.
The second kind of flight instruments are electrically powered. These include things like the artificial horizon (if not air powered) and in an increasing number of cases, they are electrically powered.
The importance of this can not be over-emphasized: Air instruments run in the presence of odd phenomena and electrical devices likely don’t. The directional gyro tells you a heading and the artificial horizon tells you whether your wings are level and if your nose is up or down. You can fly instrument conditions without going into a graveyard spiral using air instruments alone.
If you don’t have a solid handle on where “Up” is, and you lose ground reference, you’re going to have a very bad day flying.
(The third class of instruments is direct-coupled, and includes things like oil pressure. tachometer and the like, but they are not properly “flight instruments” per se.)
With all this rolling around in the back of my mind, and while soft-thinking our possible “getting to the Bahamas” adventure, along comes a note from the FAA that they are administratively making it easier to get rid of air power flight instrument and move more to electric:
“Simplifying Attitude Indicator Replacements
On September 14, 2015, the FAA published policy statement PS-ACE-03-08, “Replacement of Vacuum Driven Attitude Indicators in 14 CFR, Part 23/CAR 3 Airplanes.” The policy clarifies that most vacuum driven attitude indicators can easily be replaced with new electronically driven attitude indicators utilizing the minor alteration process.
Many pilots and operators prefer to replace their outmoded vacuum-driven attitude indicators with new electronically driven systems. The new systems provide for increased reliability and decreased maintenance costs in relation to vacuum-driven systems. In addition, electronically driven systems provide more precise attitude indication, greater internal error-checking ability, and internal redundancy — improving functionality.
This non-regulatory policy statement is part of the FAA’s effort to increase the flexibility of improving aircraft safety quickly and efficiently with new technological advancements. Stay tuned for additional policies from the FAA that will allow owners and operators to improve the safety of their general aviation aircraft.”
The reason for bringing this to your attention, as a fellow Adventurer, is that should any of your upcoming expeditions involve flights in the vicinity of the world’s established locals where anomalous phenomena take place, we would caution you not to rely exclusively on electrically driven equipment in such areas, as the Gernon book makes a convincing case with two survived examples, of the risks attendant to single-power type reliance.
This would include the following as Alert Areas:
- The Bermuda Triangle
- The Devil’s Triangle (Iwo Jima, Japan)
- Southeast of Hawaii in the Hamakulia volcanic area where phenomena have been reported
- The Himalayas northeast of Lahsa, Tibet
- Sedona, Arizona to Sonora Mexico including Torreon Mexico, where anomalies have been reported. (additional source data)
- The South Atlantic Anomaly.
Avenues for Additional Research
There is much to be figured out remaining. (Besides time off, markets, money, and incidentals like that…)
One of our next avenues of investigation will be a re-read of the Gernon-McGregor book to pull out flight dates if available.
These can then be investigated with an eye toward at least four major possibilities: Relationship to Lunation (*moon cycle on day of reported event), tides, celestial events such as solar flares and solar wind speeds (if data can be found that far back), as well as prevailing weather and a 30-day earthquake proximity study.
Figuring out the mechanics behind such phenomena is seemingly a pointless to impossible task, but what could be more adventure that deliberately flying into a space-time vortex knowing (from the Gernon book description) that experiencing a time anomaly (approximately 45-minutes worth) would be one of the rewards for the effort?
That’s an experience few at the Pearly Gates would be able to top in their “life review.” Which is the whole point of being an adventurer.
Our plotting of next week’s adventure continues, up through the middle of America. But come November, when we head out West to marry off a daughter and visit friends along the way, we will go have a look along that Sedona-Sonora corridor…
Flying around lenticular clouds down low – that look like a green fog – has become an approachable idea. Nutty? Sure. But life is only 18,000 days anyway, and when your feet it the floor in the morning, you light another one off…
Write when you break-even,