MIAMI -- The Bermuda Triangle is an endangered legend.
Ten miles northeast of the Fort Lauderdale coast, deep-sea explorers have discovered the wreckage of five TBM Avengers -- the same number and type of Navy airplanes belonging to Flight 19, the famous "Lost Patrol" that vanished mysteriously in December 1945.
The planes are clustered together within a one-mile radius on the ocean floor in about 600 feet of water, said salvor Robert Cervoni, managing director of Scientific Search Project of New York.
"This could be a historic find," Cervoni said yesterday. "The whole thing has been so exciting. The first thing we did was rush out to the library and start reading everything we could on the Bermuda Triangle."
The exploration vessel Deep See, using state-of-the-art sonar instruments and underwater video cameras, stumbled upon the planes before dawn on May 8 while searching for a Spanish galleon.
Four cockpit doors were open, suggesting the pilots bailed out before they ditched the planes in the Atlantic.
For 45 1/2 years, the mystery of Flight 19 has confounded aviation sleuths all over the world.
Fourteen men in five airplanes embarked on a routine three-hour training mission on Dec. 5, 1945, from Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station -- now Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The lead pilot became disoriented in bad weather over the Atlantic Ocean. The five planes "vanished without a trace," the myth-makers wrote.