The Mystery of the Martin Mariner

On the night of December 5, 1945, while Flight 19 was still in the air, 3 PBM Martin Mariner “flying gastanks” were in the air trying to find it. They were also called “dumbo” because of their ungainly appearance. The antenna on Miami’s dumbo had frozen over that dark night and therefore they were useless in the search. Training 32, Gerald Brammerlin’s dumbo, was headed straight out to sea, and he and his crew would be true heroes that night.  Training 49, however, which had launched with Brammerlin at Banana River by Cape Canaveral, would vanish. No trace was ever found. It would become part of the mystery of the disappearance of the “Lost Squadron.”

In fact, the loss of the Martin Mariner dumbo that night heightened the mystery. It made for a total of 6 aircraft and altogether 27 men who vanished that night (the Martin Mariner carried 13 men).  No wonder that this night and these events became the cornerstone of the Bermuda Triangle enigma. pbm3-1

Frustrated by being thwarted in my search for Flight 19 in the Okefenokee Swamp, I turned to the Mariner. I thought it was a sitting duck. It had been observed to vanish from radar that night. It wasn’t long after it had taken off. It was still close to the coast, north of Banana River. In the general vicinity there was a freighter, the s.s. Gaines Mill. She sent in a message that an aircraft exploded overhead and crashed into the sea. She also sent her position by latitude and longitude. It was in the report, of course. That made it fairly easy to go look for . . . if there was money.

Fortunately, the Triangle was quite the rage because of my website and then my book (Into the Bermuda Triangle) published by McGraw Hill in 2003. It was the first in 25 years on the Triangle, a subject that had long been in the deep freeze. Since my now defunct site ( in 1999 I had electrified the web and all of documentary and reality TV.  Producers were frequently asking me for plots.  When in 2005 NBC wanted to do a special 2 hour documentary on Flight 19, based on my MS of They Flew into Oblivion, I told them of the Mariner. The Exec. Producer, John Schriber, loved the idea; so did Larry Landsmann, the special project’s director.

Together they were able to fund David Bright (of Titanic fame) and two ships with cameras to do a week long 5 mile grid search. Finding a trace of it would be big news. NBC knew they couldn’t wait to announce it for the documentary. It would go over the newswires and this could be used as a promo for the upcoming documentary.


During that week we waited. Excitement was noticeable in all the producers’ voices as they called and updated me. Time was running out by the last day. Nothing. David Bright figured it was further north. On the last day he went north. The week was over and not a trace was found.

I was shocked. The water was only 74 feet deep. A professional diver could reach it on a straight dive. Yet there was nothing. Cameras had picked up nothing suspicious.

Years later in 2010 I told producer Bruce Burgess about it. He too funded another search with a local diver. Mike Barnette, and cameras. They found nothing as well.

engine closeup
This engine was found, but it was too far away and wasn’t the kind that a PBM would mount.

How could a big aircraft like this, which vanished not far off the coast of Florida, in only 74 feet of water, totally vanish on the bottom as well?

The easiest answer was that the Gaines Mill had been wrong or the real coordinates were mistyped in the report.  The other answer is that there just isn’t much left. What’s there has sunk beneath the bottom sands.

The PBM Mariner is still there somewhere in the general vicinity. It must be! But beginning 10 years ago I failed to locate one of the most famous missing aircraft in the Triangle, and it should have been a wreck that was fairly easy to locate. Six years ago I failed again. I was thwarted in the Okefenokee Swamp by law. But the sea is open territory, and even with two networks over a period of several years, the Triangle has not yielded the one approachable mystery that it should have.


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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.


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