"Wouldst thou," so the helmsman answered,
"Know the secret of the sea?"
Only those who brave its dangers,
Comprehend its mystery"
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~
The Bermuda Triangle, also called the Devil's Triangle, is an imaginary area that can be roughly outlined on a map by connecting Miami, Florida; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and the Bahamas, an island chain off the coast of the United States. Within that triangular area of the Atlantic Ocean have occurred a number of unexplained disappearances of boats and planes. Additionally, readings on directional devices do not operate normally inside the triangle.
Unusual events in that area date back in recorded history to 1493 and the first voyage of Christopher Columbus (1451Ė1506) to the New World. In his log, Columbus noted that his compass readings were askew within the area now called the Bermuda Triangle, and he and his crew were confused by shallow areas of sea with no land nearby.
The term "Bermuda Triangle" was first used in an article written by Vincent H. Gaddis for Argosy magazine in 1964. Gaddis claimed that several ships and planes had disappeared without explanation in that area. The article was expanded and included in his book, Invisible Horizons: True Mysteries of the Sea (1965), where he described nine mysterious incidents and provided extensive detail. Many newspapers carried a story in December of 1967 about strange incidents in the Bermuda Triangle after a National Geographic Society news release brought attention to Gaddis's book. The triangle was featured in a cover story in Argosy in 1968, in a book called Limbo of the Lost (1969) by John Wallace Spencer, and in a documentary film, The Devil's Triangle, in 1971. Charles Berlitz's 1974 bestseller The Bermuda Triangle marked the height of the disaster area legend, but some of its sensationalized claims were quickly proved inaccurate.
As early as 1952, George X. Sands had noted in a report in Fate magazine that an unusually large number of strange accidents had occurred in the region associated with the Bermuda Triangle. That many of the accidents in the area are intriguing, and that the area does have some natural conditions that sailors and pilots need to be aware of, has not been challenged. However, neither statistics nor documented evidence indicates that the number of accidents is unusually high or without explanation.
In March 1918, during World War I, the USS Cyclops vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. That ship may have been a casualty of war, but the December 1945 disappearance of Flight 19, a training squadron of five U.S. Navy torpedo bombers, became the most notorious of disappearances associated with the Bermuda Triangle. The squadron left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with 14 crewmen and disappeared after radioing in several distress messages. A seaplane sent in search of the squadron also vanished. Those two airplane disappearances were frequently cited as the Bermuda Triangle legend grew during the 1960s and 1970s.
Few of those stories included telling details. All of the crewmen of Flight 19 were in training, for example, except for their patrol leader, who had tried to withdraw from his flight duty that day because he was feeling ill. After his compass malfunctioned soon into the flight, the flight leader decided to navigate by land-marks below on the islands of the Florida Keys, with which he was familiar. Visibility became a problem because of a sudden storm, and the leader became disoriented. Flight 19 was still in radio contact with the Fort Lauderdale air base, but after some mechanical difficulties they failed to switch to an emergency frequency. Radio recordings indicate that some of the crew believed they were heading out over the Atlantic Ocean, instead of the Gulf of Mexico as their leader reported.
A search plane took off and was claimed to have disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle with Flight 19. The plane actually blew up 23 seconds after takeoff. Wreckage from Flight 19 has never been recovered.
Other aircraft that have disappeared in the area include a DC-3 carrying 27 passengers in 1948 and a C-124 Globemaster with 53 passengers in 1951. Among the ships often listed among the mysteriously disappeared are the Mary Celeste (1872), the Marine tankership Sulphur Queen with 39 men aboard (1963), and the nuclear-powered submarine Scorpion with a crew of 99 (1968). The Mary Celeste entered the list of supposed Bermuda Triangle mysteries many decades after its odd tragedy. The ship set sail from New York to Genoa, Italy, but was found sailing unmanned some 400 miles off course, off the coast of Africa. Personal articles of the crew were found and food storage areas showed no sign of upheaval. A tattered sail and a missing lifeboat suggested the boat had encountered a storm, but the ship's log, in which information was recorded as late as nine days before the ship was found, made no mention of any kind of catastrophe.
There is no evidence, however, that the Mary Celeste ever entered the area of the Bermuda Triangle. Still, the eerie, unanswered questions concerning its fate are often cited by those who attribute a malevolent force as being responsible for odd and tragic events of the triangle.
Nevertheless, there are many documented disappearances that occurred within the triangle. They include a four-engine Tudor IV air-plane lost in 1948, with 31 aboard; an American freighter, the SS Sandra (1952), which sunk without a trace; a British York transport plane, disappeared in 1952, with 33 aboard; a U.S. Navy Lockheed Constellation airplane, vanished in 1954 with 42 aboard; a U.S. Navy seaplane, 1956, with a crew of 10; a French freighter in 1970; and a German freighter, Anita, lost in 1972 with a crew of 32.
Theories about why so many air and water ships disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle involve strange magnetic fields, time warps, the lost continent of Atlantis, and alien abduction. Other proposed explanations include physical forces unknown to science, a "hole in the sky," and an unusual chemical component in the region's seawater. Several books have suggested that an intelligent, technologically advanced race living in space or under the sea has been responsible for jamming equipment and leading ships and planes to disaster.
Many books and articles play up mystery angles concerning vanished ships by depicting the disappearances as having occurred in calm weather and daylight. Such particulars of Flight 19 as an inexperienced crew, a faulty compass, a squadron leader who failed to follow instructions, and conditions of deteriorating weather and visibility are often not mentioned. Larry Kusche, a librarian at Arizona State University, examined claims of mysterious disappearances and recorded evidence from each example. The results, published in The Bermuda TriangleóMystery Solved, showed that many of the accidents happened during raging storms, or were later explained.
The area known as the Bermuda Triangle is one of the two places on Earth where a magnetic compass does point towards true north, a phenomenon called compass variation. Navigators must compensate the amount of variation or the craft they are on will go off course. A region commonly called the "Devil's Sea" in the Pacific Ocean is the other area of compass variation.
The Gulf Stream that runs through the Bermuda Triangle area is swift and turbulent, and can quickly erase evidence of a disaster. The unpredictable Caribbean-Atlantic weather can suddenly change into thunderstorms or create waterspouts. Many short and intense storms build up quickly and dissipate quickly, undetected by satellite surveillance. The ocean floor has shoals around islands as well as some of the deepest marine trenches in the world. The interaction of the strong currents over reefs promotes a constant flux and the development of new, uncharted navigational hazards.
These factors can confuse even experienced sailors. A large number of pleasure boats travel the waters between Florida's coast and the Bahamas. The U.S. Coast Guard receives more than 8,000 distress calls per year, averaging more than 20 per day from that area, often from sailors who have run out of gas.
The Bermuda Triangle claimed more than 1,000 lives during the twentieth century. That averages to about 10 per year, a figure similar to other areas of high water traffic or volatile
Natural conditions. Scientific evaluations of the Bermuda Triangle have concluded that the number of disappearances in the region is not abnormal and that most of the disappearances have logical explanations. Paranormal associations with the Bermuda Triangle persist, however, in the popular imagination.
Bermuda Triangle Stargate? A CONNECTION TO ATLANTIS?
Do Newly Mapped Magnetic Anomalies Point to the Stars?
An American archaeological team has discovered definitive evidence of underwater ancient harbor remains at two separate locations at Bimini. A hoax begun in 1978 by skeptics has also been uncovered.
Archaeologist William Donato and a team of researchers have confirmed a complex of ancient harbor works in shallow water off Bimini, 50 miles from Miami. In May 2005, the team investigated a little-known line of underwater stones located a mile from a controversial site known as the "Bimini Road." The new mile-long line of stones was found and videotaped from the air. Subsequent dives revealed several large stone circles on the bottom, formed from large blocks of limestone arranged into circular patterns. The circles were spaced at regular intervals. Stone anchors, identical to ancient Phoenician, Greek, and Roman anchors, were also found. "These finds took us by surprise," stated Dr. Greg Little, who organized the expedition. "The circles may be similar to ancient Mediterranean harbor Ďmooring circles.í"
Near the new site is the Bimini Road, a misnamed J-shaped underwater formation of stone blocks. A careful search there yielded two stone anchors in the 1800-foot long stone formation. "One of these is identical to unusual ancient Greek anchors found at Thera," Little related. Several other artifacts were found, "but the most important finds directly contradict skeptical claims." The team found numerous multiple tiers of blocks including one set of three on top of each other. "The top block has a U-shaped channel cut all the way across its bottom," Little said. "The most definitive evidence was found under the massive blocks. We found rectangular slabs of smooth, cut stone literally stacked under several blocks. These were used as leveling prop stones. This is proof that the so-called Bimini Road was a breakwater forming an ancient harbor."
The team took 20 hours of underwater video and 1000 photos. "Itís taken us five months to process the information and organize the evidence," Little stated. "While the finds are definitive, the real problem is that a few skeptics wrote articles asserting the main formation was simply natural limestone. A hoax was perpetrated at Bimini by the skeptics, but you have to examine a 1978 report to understand it. Academic archaeologists and geologists donít read that report. They cite later summaries, which are based on falsified data. The hoax is a ace, but itís been actively supported by key people."
Many reputable scientists refuse to talk to anyone concerning the Devil's Triangle simply because they do not want their good names and reputations associated with notions they consider ridiculous.
One expert on ocean currents at Yale University, who asked not to be identified, exploded into laughter at the mention of the triangle and said, "We confidently, and without any hesitation, often go to sea and work in that area." Another scientist refused to talk about it.
Atmospheric aberrations are common to jet age travelers. Few have flown without experiencing a phenomenon known as clear air turbulence. An aircraft can be flying smoothly on a beautifully clear day and suddenly hit an air pocket or hole in the sky and drop 200 to 300 feet.
Lt. Cmdr. Peter Quinton, meteorologist and satellite liaison officer with the Fleet Weather Service at Suitland, Md., said, "You can come up with hundreds of possibilities and elaborate on all of them and then come up with hundreds more to dispute the original ones."
"It's all statistical," he said, "there's nothing magical about it." According to Quinton, the Bermuda Triangle is notorious for unpredictable weather. The only things necessary for a storm to become a violent hurricane are speed, fetch (the area the wind blows over) and time. If the area is large enough, a thunderstorm can whip into a hurricane of tremendous intensity. But hurricanes can usually be spotted by meteorologists using satellite surveillance. It is the small, violent thunderstorms known as meso-meteorological storms that they can't predict since they are outside of normal weather patterns. These are tornadoes, thunderstorms and immature tropical cyclones.
They can occur at sea with little warning, and dissipate completely before they reach the shore. It is highly possible that a ship or plane can sail into what is considered a mild thunderstorm and suddenly face a meso-meteorological storm of incredible intensity.
Satellites sometimes cannot detect tropical storms if they are too small in diameter, or if they occur while the satellite is not over the area. There is a 12-hour gap between the time the satellite passes over a specific part of the globe until it passes again. During these 12 hours, any number of brief, violent storms could occur.
Quinton said, "Thunderstorms can also generate severe electrical storms sufficient to foul up communication systems." Speaking of meso-meteorological storms, which she dubbed "neutercanes," Dr. Joanne Simpson, a prominent meteorologist at the University of Miami, said in the Cosmopolitan article that "These small hybrid type storm systems arise very quickly, especially over the Gulf Stream. They are several miles in diameter, last a few minutes or a few seconds and then vanish. But they stir up giant waves and you have chaotic seas coming from all directions. These storms can be devastating."
An experienced sailor herself, Dr. Simpson said on occasion she has been"peppered by staccato bolts of lightning and smelled- the metallic odor of spent electricity as they hit the water, then frightened by ball lightning running off the yards." Sailors have been amazed for years by lightning storms and static electricity called "St. Elmo's Fire."
There are live bombs under the ocean from past wars~These bombs have exploded, causing ships to sink.
A giant whirlpools
An explanation for some of the disappearances focuses on the presence of vast fields of methane hydrates on the continental shelves. A paper was published in 1981 by the United States Geological Survey about the appearance of hydrates in the Blake Ridge area, off the southeastern United States coast. Periodic methane eruptions may produce regions of frothy water that are no longer capable of providing adequate buoyancy for ships. If this were the case, such an area forming around a ship could cause it to sink very rapidly and without warning. Laboratory experiments have proven that bubbles can, indeed, sink a scale model ship by decreasing the density of the water.
Hypothetically, methane gas might also be involved in airplane crashes, as it is not as dense as normal air and thus would not generate the amount of lift required to keep the airplane flying. Methane can cut out an aircraft engine with very little levels of it in the atmosphere.
Research has shown that tidal, freak, or rogue waves can reach up to 30 m (100 feet) in height and are capable of sinking large ships within moments. Although these are very rare, in some areas ocean currents mean they happen more often than the normal. Such waves have now been hypothesized as a cause for many unexplained shipping losses over the years.
Howard L. Rosenberg
background and graphics by:
Next Back Home