Just after sunrise, inside a single engine Cessna 150 (591OG) on approach to Bimini, Trish and I were seeking the beauty, solitude and romance of the Island, once under the control of the British. We were at five -thousand feet on a five mile approach to the North island, having no navigational equipment: no tower, no ground control; no air traffic controller; no nothing. It’s called: UNICOM, meaning, in aviation parlance, you must always remain in radio contact with aircraft pilots in the pattern. They, too, want to land on the same airstrip. It can sometimes be a very stressful environment. In other words, everyone must know what the other guy is doing–or else. Kind of scary, at first, but it’s been going on like that forever, and once you get used to it, it grows on you, becoming less stressful as time wears on. I scan the North Island, then the South Island, (yes, for the uninitiated, there are two) separated by a half mile wide channel. The one to the right contains a single landing strip spanning the island from West to East, a restaurant, a customs shack and –an airplane graveyard.
The Island to the North, of Hemingway fame, houses the constituent culture and a few older hotels. Not of the Hilton ilk, mind you, just “mom and pop” enterprises of varying degrees plying staples, such as,–coconut bread; tee shirts and hand made trinkets; conch shells. A few low key restaurants and some houses with rooms for rent make up the balance. Stuff like that. The islands float on an emerald ocean, about sixty-two nautical miles from the Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International airport, (one point of the Bermuda Triangle.) Once upon a time, many years ago, a flight of US Navy training planes headed out over the ocean in the direction of Bimini, never to return. Additionally, a massive Navy PBY seaplane and its crew were subsequently dispatched on a rescue mission in an attempt to locate them. Alas, they, too, were never seen again. But, I digress. Let’s throttle up a bit to maintain altitude as we approach the Island, land the plane, hit customs, walk to the boat ramp then motor over to the North island.
Pretend this is your first flight to the islands, British held territory in those days. You’re descending. You see Bimini on the horizon. You throttle back, just a bit, the engine bleeding off speed. You drop a notch of flaps to compensate for the lack of lift at slower speeds, “crabbing” the plane on your tenuousness, wind swept approach, seeking a straight in approach to the distant, pencil thin runway surrounded on both sides of your flight path, by raw jungle. Your first impression is of strange, blurry, large black “rocks” beneath the shimmering surface below. Volcanic? (perhaps, you guess.) The Islands magnetic beauty is the beautiful, metallic emerald green water. You streak across the white sands, couples basking in the tropical heat see you coming and wave. You wave back. Suddenly, you’re mind is shocked, as still another strange sight looms ahead: tail sections of several airplanes, both left and right of the rapidly approaching runway, jutting from the sand dunes like eerie sentinels of death, seemingly holding them up, lest they tumble onto the crystalline sands below. Your mind quickly loses focus; screaming : “Airplane tails?” Before you can comprehend and regroup, ZOOM–you’ve swept by them in a flash. Once again, you throttle back, slowly, allowing forward speed to bleed off, gently, as you seek runways end. The next instant, another impossible sight smashes into your brain, as you try containing the feeling of growing panic, creeping up your spine. A humongous dark, black, twenty foot deep hole, surrounded by a white washed circle, an arrow pointing to the obvious, proclaiming: HOLE!–as it flashes beneath your plane.
You pull back gently on the yoke, once again, wobbling to the macadam, past a “graveyard” filled with remains of what seemed hundreds of airplanes of all shapes and sizes, with one common denominator, “equalizing” their ilk—the landing gear on the left side of each were blown apart, as if by—?? OMG! The question remains unanswered–for the moment.