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Researchers reveal key discovery in Bermuda Triangle: Wreckage 'has a story to tell'

A new History Channel documentary reveals an important discovery in a 76-year-old mystery involving five aircraft and 14 airmen who disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.
/ Source: TODAY

It's a mystery that has endured for 76 years in a fabled area that many sailors and aviators have long said contains supernatural forces we don't understand.

On Dec. 5, 1945, 14 airmen flying five World War II torpedo bombers called Avengers took off from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale on a routine training mission over the Bermuda Triangle and were never seen again. The U.S. Navy even sent a Martin Mariner search plane out at the time to find the missing aircraft, and that plane and its crew of 13 also disappeared.

A new scientific investigation into the mysterious disappearance of the aircraft is the focus of the History Channel documentary "History's Greatest Mysteries," narrated by Laurence Fishburne, that will air next week.

Kerry Sanders got a preview of the documentary on TODAY Tuesday, as the mission's lead underwater explorer shared findings from the year-long scientific mission into the Bermuda Triangle, an area off the coast of Florida that extends southeast to Puerto Rico and north to Bermuda.

The mission made a significant discovery in a debris field.

"We see this round piece of wreckage with teeth, like for gears," lead underwater explorer Mike Barnette says in the documentary. "I'm thinking to myself, this looks like a turret. Emotions are running off the chart. Could this be an Avenger?"

It in fact was the wreckage of an Avenger, leading to the question of whether it's an Avenger from the mysterious Flight 19 that disappeared in 1945.

"And that's a real question," Barnette told Sanders on TODAY. "We don't know yet because a lot of people don't realize that there are hundreds of aircraft lost off this coast of Florida.

"This potentially might not be one of the Avengers from Flight 19, but it still has a story to tell, and by knowing what this aircraft is, we know where Flight 19 isn't."

Muddying the waters is the fact that researchers found Navy records that suggest the wreckage discovered in the documentary may be a different crash.

Since 1930, more than 325 planes and more than 1,200 ships have disappeared, crashed or sunk into the Bermuda Triangle, which is an area roughly the size of Alaska.

Sailors and aviators have often speculated over the years that the Bermuda Triangle contains inexplicable forces that could potentially mean the presence of extraterrestrials, which Barnette is not buying.

He believes the wreckage of Flight 19 is out there, but not that the ship went down for any reasons straight out of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

"Not one bit," he told Sanders. "I rank it with the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy."