It is best to begin the Fantastic Journey with Bruce Gernon the way it began for him. For Bruce it began unintentionally on December 4, 1970. As a result he became one of the most well-known survivors of an unexplained encounter in the Triangle. Through his friendship with the late J. Manson Valentine, his story got into Charles Berlitz’s sequel to his stunning bestseller (The Bermuda Triangle) entitled Without Trace. Like everything else associated with the Triangle, his story faded away. It was locked in Berlitz’s book in old bookstores. Yet Bruce Gernon’s encounter and insights were actually lost gems and no one knew it.
Not until 1999, that is. In that year I shocked the WWW by putting up my first site, Bermuda-triangle.org. I went to No. 1 in the search engine rankings in the first week. After 20 years of silence, people were hungry for information. Bruce was impressed and contacted me and we became friends.
For the first time since Berlitz, his story was retold. In truth it was the first time ever. Berlitz wanted another story of the mysterious. But Gernon had much more than that to give. I interviewed him and let him tell his story again. Later he would give me photos of yet another flight through the Triangle. First, however, let’s let him tell his encounter here.
Bruce Gernon gave me an exclusive interview recently gave me some great pictures for my upcoming book, and I wanted to share some on the web. Bruce is now the longest in situ observer of the Triangle, both of events within and of its everyday geographic mysteries.
One of the most well-known encounters in the Bermuda Triangle happened to Bruce Gernon Jr. on December 4, 1970. Bruce and his father had built up a successful real estate brokerage in southern Florida. By his early 20s, Bruce already had about 600 hours flying time and was very familiar with Florida and the Bahamas. However, none of this prepared him for an encounter which over 40 years later still puzzles him.
As I rewrite this article now in the high summer of 2012 (now high summer 2016 for The Quester Files) in order to bring it up to date, I cannot help but reflect on the 1970s, the era of my childhood, when so many “unexplained” topics were popular. There was nothing as hot as The Bermuda Triangle in the 70s, but Bruce Gernon’s account, as documented as it was, never made it into the ultimate Triangle book, Charles Berlitz’s 1974 bestseller. However, Berlitz later interviewed Gernon and placed his story into his 1977 sequel Without A Trace, and later Bruce appeared in a segment of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious Universe.
After that, there wasn’t much of a forum on the Triangle, even in the early days of the World Wide Web. All sites that dealt with the Bermuda Triangle debunked it. Strangely, they debunked a topic based on 20 year old arguments. My site was the only one to go up that held a pro view on the subject, and this attracted Bruce to write to me. Since my website brought back the popularity of the Triangle, and took it up to a more rational level, Bruce has been on a number of documentaries, has his own website, and even was able to finally get his own book out, The Fog. But this article was the first time he was truly able to express himself without being edited and without details of his experience being stretched to fit other theorists’ agenda.
Bruce is far from a “salesman” or publicity seeker. He strikes one as contemplative and non aggressive. The only reason his account became public was from his friendship with the late J. Manson Valentine, who often cataloged the unexplained in the Bermuda Triangle and was the source for Charles Berlitz’s 2 books on the subject.
Gernon was so amazed at his encounter that he wrote down details shortly after it happened and even began to do some of his own investigating. Here he shares some of what he encountered and what he has discovered over the last 30 years of flying the Triangle (this article first went up in 2001). His keen memory for detail has aided in the production of pictures and maps, detailing what he experienced.
In his own words:
“My dad and I had been flying our own plane in the Bahamas since 1967, and had made at least a dozen flights to and from Andros Island. Everything seemed normal on that fateful day in December, just after 3 p.m., when my dad and I and Chuck Lafeyette, a business associate, lifted off the runway at Andros Town Airport in a brand new Beechcraft Bonanza A36.
It was shortly after takeoff when I noticed an elliptical cloud directly in front of us about a mile away, hovering only about 500 feet above the ocean. It was a typical lenticular cloud, but I had never seen one that low.
Miami Flight Service reported over the VHF radio that the weather was good, so we continued. But the lenticular cloud quickly changed into a huge cumulus cloud. We were climbing at 1,000 feet per minute, and the cloud seemed to be building up at the same rate. Unexpectedly, it caught up and engulfed the Bonanza. After 10 minutes of climbing in and out of this cloud, the airplane finally broke free at 11,500 feet and the sky was clear.
I leveled the Bonanza off and accelerated to its maximum safe cruising speed of 195 miles per hour. When I looked back at the cloud, I was astonished. It now looked like an immense squall, abnormally shaped in the form of a giant semicircle extending around us. visibility was about ten miles and the cloud continued beyond my perception, so it must have been more than 20 miles long. After a few minutes, I lost sight of it.
Soon we noticed another cloud building directly in front of us, near the Bimini Islands. It looked a great deal like the cloud that we had just left, except that its top was at least 60,000 feet high. When we came with a few miles of it, we saw that it appeared to emanate directly from the surface of the Earth.
Upon entering the cloud we witnessed an uncanny spectacle. It became dark and black, without rain, and visibility was about four or five miles. There were no lightning bolts, only extraordinarily bright white flashes that would illuminate the entire surrounding area. The deeper we penetrated, the more intense the flashes became, so we made a 135-degree turn to the left and headed due south out of the cloud.
We had been flying for 27 minutes. We thought we might be able to fly around the cloud, but after six or seven miles we saw that it continued in a near-perfect curve to the east. After two more minutes it became apparent that the cloud near Andros and the cloud near Bimini were actually opposite sides of the same ring-shaped body! The cloud must have formed just off of Andros Island and then rapidly spread outward into the shape of a doughnut with a diameter of 30 miles. This seemed impossible, but there was no other explanation. We were trapped inside a billowing prison, with no way under or over it.
Thirteen miles later, I noticed a large U-shaped opening on the west side of the doughnut cloud. I had no choice but to turn and try to exit through the opening. As we approached, we watched the top ends of the U-gap join, forming a hole. The break in the cloud now formed a perfect horizontal tunnel, one mile wide and more than 10 miles long. We could see the clear blue sky on the other side.
We also saw that the tunnel was rapidly shrinking. I increased the engine RPM, bringing our speed to the caution area of 230 miles per hour. When we entered the tunnel, its diameter had narrowed to only 200 feet.
I was amazed at what the shaft now looked like. It appeared to be only a mile long instead of ten-plus as I had originally estimated. Light from the afternoon sun shone through the exit hole and made the silky white walls glow. The walls were perfectly round and slowly constricting. All around the edges were small puffs of clouds of a contrasting gray, swirling counterclockwise around the airplane.
We were in the tunnel for only 20 seconds before we emerged from the other end. For about five seconds I had the strange feeling of weightlessness and an increased forward momentum. When I looked back, I gasped to see the tunnel walls collapse and form a slit that slowly rotated clockwise.
All of our electronic and magnetic navigational instruments were malfunctioning. The compass was slowly spinning even as the airplane flew straight. I contacted Miami and told them we were about 45 miles southeast of Bimini, heading east at 10,500 feet. The radar controller replied that he was unable to identify us anywhere in that area.
Something bizarre had happened. Instead of the blue sky we expected, everything was a dull, grayish white haze. Visibility seemed like more than two miles, yet we could not see the ocean, the horizon, or the sky. The air was very stable and there was no lightning or rain. I like to refer to this as an “electronic fog;” because it seemed to be what was interfering with our instruments. I had to use my imagination to feel our way west.