The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle, or Devi’s Triangle, covers around 500,000 square miles of ocean located off the southeastern tip of Florida. One of the earliest suggestions of unusual disappearances taking place in this area appeared in a September 17, 1950, article published in The Miami Herald by Edward Van Winkle Jones. Its believed that Christopher Columbus sailed through this area on his first voyage to the America’s, and reported that he saw a great flame of fire, likely a meteor, crash into the sea one night and that a strange light appeared in the distance several weeks later. He also said that there were erratic compass readings, and this could have been due to the fact that at that time, a small part of the Bermuda Triangle was one of the few areas on Earth where magnetic north and true north lined up.

It is also believed that Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” was based on a real-life Bermuda shipwreck, which could have added to the areas mystery. Most reports concerning unexplained disappearance never really grabbed the attention of the public until the 20th century. On such tragedy occurred in March 1918 when a 542-foot long Navy cargo ship, the USS Cyclops, carrying 300 men and 10,000 tons of manganese ore onboard sank somewhere between Barbados and the Chesapeake Bay. The Cyclops never sent out an SOS despite the fact that they were equipped to do so, and an extensive search never found the ship. Then, in 1941, two of the Cyclops’ sister ships vanished in a similar manner without a trace along the same route.

A pattern seemed to form where vessels traversing the Bermuda Triangle would either disappear or be found abandoned. In December 1945, five Navy bombers carrying 14 men took off from a Fort Lauderdale airfield to conduct practice bombing runs over some nearby shoals. But his compass seemed to malfunction, and Flight 19 got lost. All five planes flew aimlessly until they started to run out of fuel, and the men were forced to ditch them at sea. That same day, 13-man crew on a rescue plane disappeared. After weeks of searching failed to turn up any evidence, the Navy released the official report, declaring that it was “as if they had flown to Mars.”

Another disappearance on December 28, 1948 involved a Douglas DC-3 aircraft. The flight was going from San Juan to Miami. It disappeared, and no trace of the aircraft or the 32 people on board was ever found. The Civil Aeronautics Board found that there was enough information on which to figure out the possible cause for the disappearance.

There are more modern disappearances too.  On June 20, 2005, A Piper PA-23 disappeared between Treasure Cay Island, Bahamas and Fort Pierce, Florida. There were three people on board. On April 10, 2007, a Piper PA-46-310P disappeared bear Berry Island after flying into a level 6 thunderstorm and losing altitude. Two fatalities were listed. On May 15, 2017, a private MU-2B aircraft was at 24,000 feet when it vanished from radar and radio contract with air traffic controllers in Miami. Plane wreckage was later found. In later July 2015, two 14 year-old boys, Perry Choen and Austin Stephanos, went on a fishing trip in their 19-foot boat. Despite a 15,000 square nautical mile wide search by the Coast Guard, the boat was not found until a year later off the coast of Bermuda, but the boys were never seen again.

Also in 2015, SS El Faro, with a crew of 33, sank off of the coast of the Bahamas within the triangle on October 1 after sailing into Hurricane Joaquin. Search crews found the vessel 15,000 feet below the surface.

Before the phrase Bermuda Triangle was coined by Vincent Gladdis in a 1964 magazine article, numerous other accidents had occurred in the area, including three passenger planes going down despite having just sent an “all’s well” message.

An article entitled “Sea Mystery at Our Back Door” written by George Sand covered many of the plane and ships that had fallen prey to the Bermuda Triangle, and laid out the now-familiar triangular area where all of these losses took place. He was also the first to suggest that the disappearance of Flight 19 had a supernatural element to it. Flight 19 was discussed once more in the April 1962 issue of American Legion. Author Allan W. Eckert told how the flight leader had been heard saying, “We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don’t know where we are, the water is green, no whit.”  The most commonly accepted vertices of the Bermuda Triangle are those written by Gaddis. They are Miami, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. Charles Berlitz fanned the flames of this legend more in 1974 with a bestseller about the legend. Since then, many other paranormal writers have blamed the powers of the Triangle on everything from aliens, Atlantis and sea monsters, to time warps and reverse gravity fields.

Of course, we couldn’t talk about something paranormal without somebody criticizing the idea. Larry Kusche, author of The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved argued that the claims made by Gaddis and other writers were unverifiable, exaggerated, or dubious. He claimed to have uncover a number of inconsistencies and inaccuracies between the people involved in some of the incidents. He also found cases where important information was never reported, such as the disappearance of round-the-world yachtsman Donald Crowhurst, which had been presented as a mystery, despite evidence to the contrary. His final conclusion was that:

  • The number of ships and planes reported missing in the area was not significantly greater, proportionally speaking, than any other area of the ocean.
  • In an area that experienced a lot of tropical cyclones, the number of disappearances that occurred were, for the most part, neither disproportionate, unlikely, nor mysterious.
  • Furthermore, many writers would fail to mention such storms or even represent the disappearance as having happened in calm conditions when meteorological records clearly contradicted this.
  • The numbers were exaggerated due to sloppy research.
  • Some disappearances had never occurred.
  • The legend of the Bermuda Triangle is a manufactured mystery, perpetuated by writers who unknowingly or purposely made use of misconceptions, sensationalism, and faulty reasoning.

Kusche’s conclusions are strong, but he’s not the only one who doesn’t buy into this idea of the Bermuda Triangle. The US Coast Guard even agrees that passing through this area is no more dangerous than any other area. Many flights, cruises, and other passages take place on a regular basis through the Bermuda Triangle, yet there are numerous stories about odd things happening. That’s just the thing. The area of the Bermuda Triangle is a large area, and finding the remains of a sunk ship or crashed plane can be hard to do, and while the disappearance may seem mysterious, it does not necessarily mean that anything paranormal or unexplainable took place.

But for those who do believe in the Bermuda Triangle, people have offered a number of explanatory approaches. First are the paranormal explanations. One of these pins the blame on leftover technology from the lost continent of Atlantis. What is sometimes connected to the story of Atlantis is the submerged rock formation known as the Bimini Road off the island of Bimini in the Bahamas.  Edgar Cayce, a psychic, predicted that Atlantis would be discovered in 1968 because of the discovery of the Bimini Road. Believers described the formation as a road, wall, or other structure. Some have also blamed UFOs.

Then there are the natural explanations. Compass problems tend to be one of the most common occurrences in the Triangle. While some think that there may be some magnetic anomalies in the area, such anomalies have never been discovered. However, as mentioned before, true north and magnetic north could lie in the same area in the Triangle, which could cause a compass go haywire.

Another cause could be the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is a major surface current that is mainly driven by thermohaline circulation that starts in the Gulf of Mexico and flows through the Straits of Florida into the North Atlantic. Basically, it is a river within an ocean. Much like a river, in can and does carry floating objects. That means, anything within this stream, like a plane making a water landing or a boat with engine trouble, can be carried off by the current.

Another explanation is the presence of large fields of methane hydrates on the continental shelves. Lab experiments performed in Australia have proven that bubbles can sink a ship by decreasing the density of the water. Any wreckage that rose to the surface would be quickly dispersed by the Gulf Stream. It has been proposed that periodic methane eruptions, also called mud volcanoes, could produce regions of frothy water that can provide adequate buoyancy for ships. If this happened, an area like this forming around a ship could cause it to sink quickly and with no warning.

There is also good ole human error. This is one of the most common explanations for a loss of vessel or aircraft. Human stubbornness may have caused Harvey Conover to lose his yacht because he chose to sail straight into a storm south of Florida on January 1, 1958.

There is likely no single theory that can solve the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. While stores, the Gulf Stream, and reefs can cause navigational challenges there, the maritime insurance leader Lloyd’s of London does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an especially hazardous place. Much like Atlantis, Area 51, and many other unexplained mysteries in the world, we will likely never find out the truth about the Bermuda Triangle. The only people who could answer this question disappeared there, and will never be seen again.

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