HOW does an airliner vanish into thin air?
It’s the question on the lips of millions across the world after Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 disappeared.It went missing last Saturday with 239 people on board on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Here we look at four other mysteries and reveal some of the theories that have been put forward to explain them.
Strange trips into the unknown: The Bermuda Triangle
AS far back as 1492, explorer Christopher Columbus is said to have reported strange events in a triangular area of sea between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, now known as the Bermuda Triangle.
In 1918, a cargo ship called the USS Cyclops disappeared in the region. No wreckage was found, nor any of the 300 crew.
Then on December 5, 1945, five US Navy bombers disappeared with their 14 crew while on a training exercise, flying out from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Two hours into the mission Lieutenant Charles Taylor, who was in charge, reported that neither of his compasses were working and that he could not pinpoint his position.
Flight 19 then appears to have flown further out to sea.
Neither the planes or their crews were ever seen again.
Chillingly, a Mariner rescue plane sent to find them also disappeared without a trace, along with its 13 crew, shortly after taking off. In the years that followed more planes and ships apparently went missing in unusual circumstances.“A boarding party found a ghost ship, with no sign of damage. But its only lifeboat was missing – along with the ship’s 10 passengers and crew”
But one of the weirdest incidents involved pilot Bruce Gernon.
In 1970 he was flying from the Bahamas to Florida when his plane entered an odd cigar-shaped cloud.
Inside, Gernon found that he was surrounded by a strange electronic fog that made his compass spin wildly.
The plane passed through safely.
But, bizarrely, Gernon suddenly discovered that he was over his destination half an hour before he should have been – suggesting that the aircraft had somehow travelled in time.
The theories: Rogue waves, waterspouts as well as the presence of mysterious magnetic fields have all been blamed for the unnerving incidents in the Bermuda Triangle.
Some scientists have suggested that methane bubbles floating to the surface in the area could disrupt water buoyancy and produce potentially explosive air pockets.
A wilder theory suggests that the area is the location of the lost city of Atlantis and that energy from crystals used to power it are responsible for destroyed ships and planes.
It sounds far-fetched until you learn that a rock formation in the style of a pavement was found in seas near the Bimini Islands in 1968.
UFO hunters think that the lack of wreckage or survivors in most cases suggests alien abduction.
IN the early evening of July 17, 1996, Trans World Airline Flight 800 took off from JFK airport in New York on its way to Paris.
Just 12 minutes later the 747 exploded in mid-air off the coast of Long Island and crashed into the sea.
All 230 people on board were killed – and the incident is the third-deadliest accident involving an airliner in US history.
What made the crash unusual was that around 200 eye witnesses said they had seen a streak of fi re heading upwards, towards the plane just before the crash.
The theories: More than 90% of the wreckage was recovered and initially a criminal investigation was launched by the FBI.
Four years later an official report concluded that the crash was probably caused by an electrical short circuit that set fi re to vapour in a fuel tank causing an explosion.
But sceptics insist there has been a cover-up and say that the real cause was a missile strike either from a terrorist or mistakenly fi red by a US Navy vessel.
Others suggest that there was a bomb on board the plane. Last year a TV documentary claimed to have evidence from radar data that backed up the notion of an explosion caused by an external source.
There are also claims that suspicious explosive residue was found amid the wreckage.
Some investigators who worked on the original crash have now called for the case to be re-opened.
ON the evening of November 7, 1974, a pretty 29-year-old nanny called Sandra Rivett, was bludgeoned to death in the basement of the Lucan family home in Belgravia, London.
Lady Lucan, estranged from her husband, was also attacked but survived – running covered in blood to a nearby pub to raise the alarm.
On the same evening Lord Lucan, 39, disappeared.
He had first phoned his mother, asking her to collect the children, then drove a Ford Corsair car to a friend’s house in Uckfield, Sussex, before leaving again.
later found by police abandoned in the nearby port of The blood-soaked car was Newhaven.
Police issued a warrant for Lucan’s arrest and an official inquest into Rivett’s death named him as the murderer but no trace of him has been found to this day.
It’s thought Lucan killed Rivett after mistaking her for his wife Veronica following a custody battle over their children.
In 1999 he was officially declared dead by the High Court.
But the mystery continues to fascinate Brits nearly 40 years later. It was recently the subject of an ITV drama starring Rory Kinnear.
The theories: In the decades that have followed there have been scores of “sightings” of Lord Lucan all around the world from as far apart as Australia and Mozambique.
Many assumed that in the days following the murder he had committed suicide, probably by jumping from a cross-Channel ferry. But his body has never been found.
A personal assistant of his friend John Aspinall recently claimed that she had helped arrange for his children to visit the peer there in the 1970s and 1980s.
Sir Rupert Mackeson, close to the high society gambling set of which Lucan was a member, believes that Rivett’s murder was actually carried out by a hitman paid for by Lucan’s rich friends and that Lucan was himself killed by a hitman to prevent him spilling the beans.
Spooky saga of The Mary Celeste
IT is a puzzle that has baffled generations – what exactly did happen to the crew of the Mary Celeste?
On December 4 1872, the 103ft, 280-ton brig was spotted by another ship, the Dei Gratia, under full sail off the west coast of Portugal.
Although it was flying no distress signal, it appeared to be on an erratic course with no-one at the helm.
A boarding party found a ghost ship, with no sign of damage. But its only lifeboat was missing – along with the ship’s 10 passengers and crew.
Its skipper was Benjamin Briggs, 37, who had made the trip many times and was this time in charge of a cargo of raw alcohol for fortifying wines.
Yet he and his experienced crew, along with his wife and daughter, had vanished in what seemed to be good weather.
Even more bemusing, they had left behind enough food and drink for six months, all their belongings and the ship’s logbook.
To this day not a trace of the crew has been found and the case remains the biggest maritime mystery of all time.
The theories: The idea that the Mary Celeste had been abandoned in a storm seemed unlikely, given the lack of damage. Some believed it had been the victim of pirates but little appeared to be missing.
Over the decades many outlandish theories have sprang up – including an attack by sea monsters.
Another view is that fumes leaking from the alcohol the ship was carrying could have caused mental problems in the captain and crew.
Or the danger of an explosion from the cargo could have panicked them into abandoning the Mary Celeste and their lifeboat then tragically sank.