I remember the novelist Frederick Forsyth (Day of the Jackal etc. etc.), who I admire greatly, being quoted as saying that he enjoyed researching his novels far more than he enjoyed writing them.
I have to say that I enjoy both the research and the writing equally, but A Matter of Time - like Virtually Maria before it - gave me the opportunity to delve deeply into mysterious and paranormal subjects that really did interest me. The first of these was the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle and the legend of what happened to five US Navy torpedo bombers on Flight 19. The second was the so-called "Philidelphia Experiment" in which the US Navy is alleged to have dematerialised an entire warship as part of a top-secret experiment to make it impervious to torpedoes and radar.
Once again, it gives me great pleasure to share a synopsis of my notes with you along with how these subjects were incorporated into the plot of A Matter of Time.
Again, I give you the "health warning" that I am a novelist writing science fiction, not a scientist preparing a paper for a learned journal - so nobody is to base their doctoral thesis on this material - please just enjoy it.
I have included a "Further Reading" section in the navigation bar above for you to follow the texts I used for your own research wherever possible. It's an adventure. Please have fun along the way and, if you have any comments or queries on A Matter of Time, or indeed on Virtually Maria or Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, please feel free to drop me an e-mail at THIS ADDRESS.
THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE
The first thing that I discovered when researching this topic was that there is a huge amount of material - some seriously scientific and some not so serious, written about the Bermuda Triangle.
In short, the area of the Atlantic ocean known at the "Bermuda Triangle" covers between 500,000 to 1.5 million square miles of water (depending on which source you quote) and, at its minimum size, is bounded at its three points by the island of Bermuda, San Juan on Puerto Rico and the Atlantic coast of Florida.
While strange phenomena have been observed in this area since the time of Christopher Columbus, many attribute the apparently high rate of missing ships and aircraft in this area to:
- the very large numbers of ships and aircraft crossing this part of the ocean
- the unpredictable storms that occur in the area
- the 5-6 knot current of the Gulf Stream, flowing north-westwards, capable of carrying any wreckage from a sinking or crash out to sea.
The modern myth around the Bermuda Triangle began in 1950 with two newspaper articles by E.V.W. Jones, that were followed in 1952 by the article "Sea Mystery At Our Back Door" by George X Sand in the October edition of Fate magazine. This article included the Bermuda Triangle incident involving the loss of Flight 19 - a flight of five US Navy Avenger torpedo bombers - which also plays a large part in my own novel A Matter of Time.
However, the term "Bermuda Triangle" was not coined until 1964 when the author Vincent Gaddis wrote the article "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle" in the February edition of Argosy Magazine.
For a more sober and scientific explanation of the "Bermuda Triangle" I recommend the book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery:Solved - written in 1975 by Lawrence David Kusche. But then again, when I was researching A Matter of Time - or indeed Virtually Maria or Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, I wasn't looking for a really sober explanation, I was looking for the basis of an exciting story using my fictional theory that such phenomena were the result of localised time warps caused by the focusing of natural forces called Ley Lines.
My take on the Bermuda Triangle as a plot device in A Matter of Time therefore, was to theorise that the very same ley lines that Theo Gilkrensky was investigating at the Pyramid site in Virtually Maria also cross in large numbers in the Bermuda Triangle. Their energy again causes disruptions for Theo's Deadulus autopilot system and, more importantly, when triggered by light and sound waves, open an Einstein-Rosen Bridge wormhole effect between two points in time.
Sometimes, it is really a lot easier and more fun to be a novelist than a scientist!
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Perhaps the most famous mystery - and therefore for me as an author of fiction the most exciting example of any "disappearance" in the Bermuda Triangle - is the loss of five US Navy aircraft on a training mission on the 5th December 1945. Popular myth has it that five torpedo bombers, lead by an experienced senior pilot, took of in calm weather, experienced some kind of paranormal phenomenon that initially affected their compasses and then disappeared, never to be seen again. They were followed into the void by a huge flying boat that was sent to rescue them - a Martin Mariner - which also vanished . . . into thin air!
However, when I read deeper into the literature about this Bermuda Triangle "mystery", I soon discovered that a number of essential elements of the popularly accepted story had been either embelleshed or altered as follows:
- Lt. Charles Taylor, the flight leader, was new to the Florida area. It is possible that he refused to believe his compass and, instead of simply flying west when he lost his way, led the flight out to sea until they eventually ran out of fuel and had to ditch in the ocean.
- While the "legend" has it that Flight 19 vanished into thin air in the Bermuda Triangle good weather, a storm actually blew up by the end of the day. This would have made navigation even more difficult and rescue in such a vast area of sea virtually impossible.
- The Martin Mariner flying boat dispatched to search for Flight 19 was an aircraft type notorious for being "flying gastanks" and subject to onboard fires. An explosion was reported at the Mariner's location after takeoff and it is therefore possible that a cigarette or faulty wiring led to a fuel explosion.
- The strong currents in the Bermuda Triangle area would have carried any wreckage out to sea to the Northeast by the end of the storm, making it appear that all six planes had indeed "vanished into thin air" - in the Bermuda Triangle.
Again I highly recommend the book by Lawrence David Kusche as a sober analysis of this incident.
However, in A Matter of Time I stretch my artistic licence to breaking point by suggesting that at least one plane in Flight 19 survived and becomes an important point of the plot in the book.
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THE PHILIDELPHIA EXPERIMENT
Another fascinating "urban myth" that I was itching to incorporate into one of my thrillers was the story of “Project Invisibility,” which supposedly began as scientific research for the Office of Naval Research - ONR - in the 1940s.
According to the story, the basis of the project was to create a strong magnetic field around a warship - so strong as to render it invisible to radar (and the human eye) by bending radar waves and light waves around it by refraction - just the way that light is bent by hot air on a beach to look like water.
The story also suggests that no less a scientist than Albert Einstein was involved and that his “Unified Field Theory for Gravitation and Electricity” (published in 1926 in German in a Prussian scientific journal) might have been used to advantage in the electronic camouflage of ships at sea. This supposed research was aimed at masking the ship from torpedoes initially (especially German magnetic torpedoes that homed on the magnetic field of a ship), but this was extended to a study of creating radar invisibility.
The destroyer USS Eldridge was then suppposed to have been loaded with a great deal of heavy electrical generating gear, including two massive 75 KVA generators mounted where the foreward gun should have been, passing their current back through four magnetic coils mounted on the deck. Three RF transmitters (2 megawatt CW each, mounted on the deck), three thousand “6L6” amplifier tubes (used to drive the field coils of the two generators), special synchronising and modulation circuits, and a load of other specialised hardware to generate massive electromagnetic fields which, when properly configured, would be able to bend light and radio waves around the ship.
The story continues that at 0900 on the July 22nd, 1943 the power was turned on and the fields started to build up. A greenish fog was seen to grow around the Eldridge concealing it from view, and then disppeared, taking the Eldridge with it. After about fifteen minutes the generators were switched off and the fog reappeared, subsided, and there was the Eldridge.
Crewmen were reported as disorientated and nauseous. They were replaced with another crew. The equipment was altered to only provide radar invisibility (not complete invisibility!) and a second experiment was undertaken.
On 28th October, 1943 at 17.15 the final test was performed. The generators were switched on and the Eldridge became nearly invisible, with just her hull outline visible in the water. There was no green fog, everything appeared fine for a few seconds. Then there was a blinding flash, and the Eldridge vanished completely - to reappear miles away in Norfolk Virginia, where it was seen for several minutes and then returned to the Philadelphia Naval yard. Most of the crew were violently sick, some were “missing” and never found. Some went crazy, and five men were fused to the metal of the ship.
Witnesses from the SS Andrew Fusureth are alleged to have witnessed the arrival of the Eldridge in the Norfolk, Virginia area by teleportation.
Detailed research into the incident however, shows that the US Navy deny that this ever happened and that a full action report for the USS Eldridge can be purchased from them for a few dollars, which shows that it was never at the locations mentioned in the story when it says she was.
However, that hasn't stopped conspiracy theorists from alleging a cover-up, which I include as a sub-plot to my thriller A Matter of Time.
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AIRCRAFT AND HELICOPTERS
Coming back down to earth or more mundane research matters, I got a great deal of help on A Matter of Time from the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. They have a wide range of aircraft there, including an example of the PBM Avenger torpedo bombers that were lost in the Bermuda Triangle as Flight 19.
The Bell 214 "Huey" helicopter
They also have an example of a Bell 214 Huey helicopter, which I have used in Virtually Maria, in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and in my new Cold War thriller Fire & Ice. While my impression of the Avenger torpedo bomber was that the cockpit was incredibly cramped. By contrast, the Huey seemed huge. Sitting in the cockpit was almost like being behind the wheel of an articulated truck.
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When I wrote A Matter of Time researchers at Fujitsu had just announced that they were training a computer to pick up specific patterns of thought in the brain. This would, they said, allow someone to operate a keyboard without touching it by simply thinking “yes” or “no” - thereby generating patterns of thought in the brain that a computer can recognise.
The computer would recognise them through super-sensitive devices called SQUIDS (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) contained inside a space age helmet.
Michael Beirne, of Fujitsu in Tokyo, explained that one day it might be possible to do away with the helmet altogether, since SQUIDS would become so sensitive that they can pick up the minutest electrical signals from a distance.
Because of the minute electrical fields involved, a screening helmet was required to cut out interference from outside. This gave me the basis for the vitual games sphere that billionaire software developer Jerry Gibb uses in A Matter of Time.
The SQUID itself was a microscopically thin (20 atomic layers) weak-link of superconductor with a thickness close to the de Broglie wavelength of electrons. This allowed the SQUID to capture the neuromagnetic field of the human brain (which itself is weaker than the magnetic field of the earth) - hence the need for a helmet.
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JAPANESE SWORD FIGHTING
As an artist willing to sacrifice personal safety and experience real pain for the sake of my readers, I put myself in the very competent hands of Peter Sheriff and the members of the Kensho Kendo Club in Cork who instructed me in the art of Japanese swordmanship for a day. I learned a great deal - principally what a demanding sport kendo is and how, if you don't adopt the correct stance, you can seriously strain your hamstring. I limped back to the train that evening with a wealth of experience, which I hope shows through in the kendo scenes in A Matter of Time.
As I said, I put a lot of effort into giving my readers the realism they deserve!
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Copyright John Joyce 2008