MH370: A night flight into mystery
The disappearance of MH370 around 8 years ago, with 290 people on board, is one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries
On March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER plane of Malaysian Airlines vanished with its passengers and crew. Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur International airport to Beijing lost contact with the air traffic control 38 minutes after take-off. It was tracked by military radar for one more hour, but nothing has been heard since, despite the most extensive — and expensive — search operations in the history of aviation.
Aircraft or ships losing contact with ATC or disappearing from the radar is not an uncommon phenomenon. What is peculiar about the MH370 incident is the complete absence of any physical trace of the aircraft, its parts, or the occupants. Eight years on, despite many informed hypotheses, social media hoaxes and crash theories, any real-world evidence about the plane and its occupants is still elusive.
Where did the aircraft go? If it crashed, where are the debris and the remains of people on board? Was it hijacked? Were ‘aliens’ involved? These were some of the questions that sprung up during the investigation.
One of the most plausible theories was that the aircraft crashed into the ocean. It was the hunch various investigative missions were operating on but the main obstacle was the location. Although the globe is covered by GPS satellites and mapping, the location of the ill-fated aircraft could not be determined. Initial search efforts focused on the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, which was extended to the Strait of Malacca and then to the Andaman Sea, following reported sightings and technical analysis. The Indian Ocean search involved 19 vessels and 345 sorties, combing an area of 4.6 million sq kilometres.
Then came reports, based on satellite data, that the plane may have flown continuously for six hours after it was sighted on a Malaysian military radar. The focus was shifted to the southern Indian ocean — some 2,000 km west of Perth, Australia. Satellite imagery of the area for the likely dates was analysed and two possible debris fields were identified. However, rescue aircraft or ships couldn’t find anything related to MH370 in the area.
Some 20 pieces of debris believed to be from the ill-fated plane have been recovered from various beaches on the western Indian Ocean, 18 of which were identified as ‘very likely or almost certain to originate from’ MH370. These include a possible right flaperon of the aircraft, a horizontal stabiliser, and likely part of a right wing of the aircraft.
There are also theories about possible inflight events that could have led to the ‘crash’. These range from power interruption to hypoxia event, passenger or crew involvement with even Captain Zahraine reported in media as the prime suspect in the investigation. However, subsequent inquiries failed to find anything conclusive.
All clues lead to the possibility that somewhere deep in the ocean, the carcass of the aeroplane and the remains of the people on board remain buried, waiting to be discovered. That is made more difficult with each passing day. And, for the family of the 290 people aboard the missing plane, a closure is still far away.
The Bermuda Triangle
For the last 200 years, 50 ships and 20 aircraft reportedly disappeared without a trace in the "Bermuda Triangle”, a.k.a. the “Devil’s Triangle”. The area does not appear on any recognised world maps. How did it earn that dreaded epithet?
First the geography: the region is in the Atlantic generally bounded by Miami (west), Bermuda (north) and Puerto Rico (south-east) — a huge triangular area up to 3,900,000 sqkm in size. It is also the location of the deepest point in the Atlantic, the Milwaukee Depth (8,380 metres).
In 1964, Vincent Gaddis first used the phrase “Bermuda Triangle” in an article to describe a region “that has destroyed hundreds of ships and planes without a trace” for about 200 years.
At least two incidents in the region involved US military craft. In March 1918, the collier USS Cyclops disappeared inside the Bermuda Triangle. No explanation was given — and no wreckage found until today.
In 1945, a squadron of bombers (collectively known as Flight 19) disappeared in the airspace above it. The US Navy launched unsuccessful search efforts; no wreckage or bodies were recovered till 2021.
Charles Berlitz popularised the term in his 1974 best-selling book The Bermuda Triangle. He suggested that the fabled lost island of Atlantis was somehow involved. Also, it’s been thought that some kind of a “sea monster” is behind these unexplained events.
Scientists said it’s a different kind of monster at work: monster waves. A strong ocean current known as "Gulf Stream" — which causes sharp changes in local weather — passes through the area. It is just right for massive rogue waves, which could reach 100 feet tall (the largest recorded wave was the 100-foot tsunami in Alaska’s Lituya Bay in 1958). Simulations showed that even a rogue 50-foot wave would be enough to sink flat-bottomed ships, like the US Navy vessels that disappeared in the area.
The US Coast Guard, however, says there is nothing particularly hazardous about the Bermuda Triangle. “The ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans,” the US National Ocean Service stated. “When foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place. This is true all over the world,” NOS stated.
To this day, the exact number of ships and planes that have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle remains unknown. The wreckage of many ships and airplanes reported missing in the region has not been recovered.
Amelia Earhart: Lost forever
The American aviator went missing during the round-the-world flight in 1937
Amelia Earhart was perhaps the most famous woman aviator in history. She caught the imagination of the American public when Earhart became the second person after Charles Lindbergh to fly solo across the Atlantic. At the peak of her fame, Earhart disappeared. She went missing in 1937 during a flight to circumnavigate the world.
Her disappearance is one of the mysteries of the 20th century — one that’s the subject of several books and movies. A record-breaking pilot, who worked for the advancement of women in aviation, Earhart is thought to have vanished somewhere over the Pacific. There have been several conspiracy theories, so also many reports of sightings. All of them have yielded nothing. She was officially declared lost at sea.
The plane wreckage has never been found, but the aviator continues to live in public memory. Much has been written about Earhart and her solo flights across the Atlantic, from Hawai to the US mainland, and across the US, from California to New Jersey. But the mystery over her disappearance remains unresolved.
Over the last 15 years, several expeditions have scoured the ocean floor around Howland Island, where Earhart’s plane lost contact. The aircraft hasn’t been found. But the fascination endures.
• 1928 — First woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger
• 1929 — Speed record for women
• 1930 — Speed record for women
• 1931 — First woman to fly an autogiro
• 1931 — Autogiro altitude record of 5,612 metres
• 1932 — First woman and the second person to fly solo and non-stop across the Atlantic
• 1932 — First woman to fly solo and non-stop across the United States
• 1933 — Reset her transcontinental record
• 1935 — First person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii, to the US mainland (Oakland, California)
• 1935 — Speed record between Mexico City and Washington, DC
• 1935 — First person to fly solo from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey
The tragic story of MV Kairali
The Kerala ship went missing without a trace in 1979
It was a disaster in the making from the beginning: The ship’s radar wasn’t working, bad weather was raging and the cargo was in excess. But the cargo ship M V Kairali, brought by Kerala Shipping Corporation from Norway, was destined to hit the waters on July 1, 1979.
The ship, with tonnes of iron ore, was captained by Joseph along with 48 other crew members. It was headed to Germany via Djibouti.
Remember, it was way before hi-tech communications systems were in place. Bombay Radio was the only official means of communication with M V Kairali.
Messages kept flying back and forth for the first couple of days after the ship set sail. All seemed to be well.
However, on July 3, 1979, around 8pm a message came from the ship. And absolute silence followed. There was no more communication from the ship.
Officials in Djibouti, where the ship was to have its first port call for refuelling, never sighted nor heard anything from the 49 people on board the vessel.
Though a bit late, the Indian Navy stepped in with a search-and-rescue mission, but it was in vain.
Speculations were rife: the ship might have been caught in bad weather and broke into pieces; pirates might have hijacked and in the process accidentally destroyed the ship.
Apparently, the ship was insured and Kerala Shipping Corporation received millions in compensation, what part of it went to the relatives of the missing crew members was not very clear.
Many cases were filed by the families of the missing crew members, but the ship nor its remnants were sighted to this day, leaving behind fading memories and the last letter written by the captain to his family before embarking on the mysterious journey.
The DB Cooper hijack
The hijacking of the Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 is the only unsolved air piracy in commercial aviation
The man in question is not DB Cooper. It is just a name the media has given to a man who highjacked a Boeing 727 plane in the US on November 24, 1971. That itself was the misinterpretation of the name Dan Cooper (obviously fake) he had used to purchase the ticket to board the plane. He then escaped via parachute after securing $200,000 in ransom never to be traced.
The incident occurred in US airspace between Portland in Oregon and Seattle. Interestingly, the crime remains the only unresolved air piracy in commercial aviation history, according to many sources. Part of the ransom, $5,880, was found on the banks of Columbia River, in 1980, immediately rekindling interest in the case.
This man of 'no distinctive features', in his 40s and about 6 feet in height boarded the Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 on November 24 from Portland. He was wearing a business suit with a black tie and white shirt, according to eyewitnesses. Once the plane took off, he handed over a note to a flight attendant which said he had a bomb in his possession. He opened the briefcase to show her a battery, red sticks and some wires. His demands were $200,000 in ‘negotiable US currency’, four parachutes, and a fuel truck on standby in Seattle for the aeroplane. There were 35 other passengers on the plane.
The aircraft circled Puget Sound for about two hours while FBI agents scrambled to arrange the highjacker’s demands. They arranged $200,000 in 20 dollar bills and the parachutes he has asked for. Cooper rejected military issue parachutes and demanded civilian ones with manual rip chords which they got from a local skydiving school.
The plane landed in Seattle-Tacoma airport and ransom was delivered after which Cooper allowed passengers to leave the plane. The plane then took off under his directions to Mexico City and somewhere between Seattle and Reno, a little after 8pm, the hijacker jumped out of the back of the plane with a parachute and the ransom money, according to investigators. The pilots landed safely, but Cooper had disappeared without a trace and his fate remains a mystery to this day.
Who are the Illuminati?
It was 1776 in Bavaria. New ideas have started to develop proposing rationalism, religious freedom and universal human rights — which ran counter to the Catholic Church’s influence over public life.
Across the Atlantic, a new nation staked claim for independence based on these ideas. Back in Bavaria, a German philosopher and law professor Johann Adam Weishaupt who taught secular philosophy, continue to be frustrated.
Weishaupt, schooled by the Jesuits, decided to spread his ideas through a secret society, which he called the “Illuminati”. Weishaupt modelled aspects of the Illuminati off a group known as the Freemasons. Freemasonry began in 1717, who had gone from passing down the craft of masonry to more promoting ideals of knowledge and reason. Over time, the Illuminati had grown into a secret order that included many influential individuals.
Weishaupt created his parallel society while also joining the Freemasons — and recruiting from their ranks. As the Illuminati gained more ground, the American revolution also gained momentum. Thomas Jefferson later cited Weishaupt as an “inspiration”.
European monarchs and clergy were worried about similar revolts in their own soil. In 1784, when the group had counted over 600 members, the Bavarian state seized the Illuminati. Documents revealed fascinating details about its rituals. Duke Theodore of Bavaria issued an edict banning such societies. Only nine years after its founding, the group dissolved and Weishaupt was forced into exile.
Despite their brief existence, the Illuminati became more notorious — in their after-life. After the French Revolution, some authors claimed the Illuminati have survived their banishment, orchestrating the overthrow of the monarchy. While the idea of a secret group orchestrating political upheaval is still alive and well today, there’s no evidence the Illuminati survived. Weishaupt’s ideas, however, continue to fuel global conspiracy theories, and inspire best-selling novels and blockbuster films.
Twin mystery of Kodinhi village
The Kerala village caught attention after having highest number of twins in one area
Twins, not 1 or 2, more than 500 pairs and still counting. This is happening in a remote village of around 2,000 people in Malappuram district, in the south Indian state of Kerala.
Kodinhi caught international attention after the rare and unexplained phenomenon of the highest number of twins in one area.
The Indian national average of twin births is not more than 9 in 1,000 births. But in Kodinhi, the number is 45 in 1,000 births.
Speculations are galore, but there is no scientific evidence yet. According to some experts, it could be genetics or a particular element in the air or water of the village. Other explanations include the diet of the villagers.
Twins born here are as normal as any other children in the world. Mothers are also healthy and do not have any issues.
Kodinhi is not the first village in the world with a twin mystery. There's Hung Loc Commune in Vietnam, Igbo-Ora in Nigeria and Candido Godoi in Brazil.
Incidentally, women from Kodinhi married off to far-away places are also known to give birth to twins, leaving the mystery unsolved.
The Nine Unknown Men of Ashoka
The Illuminati of India, did they exist?
The Nine Unknown Men of Ashoka. The Illuminati of India, its Priory of Sion, or Opus Dei. Did they really exist? Nobody knows. But Ashoka existed in India. He was a Mauryan emperor. But there’s no evidence to affirm the existence of a secret society said to be founded by him around 270 BC.
Ashoka renounced violence and turned to Buddhism after the horrific bloodshed in the Kalinga War. Legend has it that he wanted to accumulate as much knowledge as possible. He chose nine brilliant minds to pursue knowledge on warfare physiology, microbiology, alchemy, communication, gravity, cosmology and sociology.
These men were sworn to secrecy and were forbidden to appear in public. Their identities were hidden, and the project was kept under wraps as the emperor feared that such wealth of information could be used to wipe out humanity.
The problem is that there is no proof of the existence of the society in the past more than 2,000 years. Well, you could argue that’s because it’s a secret society. But then, how did British writer Talbot Mundy come across it. The society came to light only in 1923 after Mundy published his novel named “Nine Unknown Men”. So it’s likely to remain fiction. Or, another layer of intrigue and mystery in the land of spirituality and mysticism.