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The Bermuda Triangle

Location and History

The Bermuda Triangle is a well known region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean, off the south eastern coast of the United States of America. Its apexes are in the vicinities of Bermuda in Miami, Florida, and also in San Juan, Puerto Rico, covering an area of roughly 500000 square miles. However, over the years, many writers have defined different apexes in their writing, and even the area of the Bermuda Triangle has been ‘changed’ vastly over the years, with the numbers ranging from 500000 square miles, even to a whopping 1.5 million square miles. The Bermuda triangle was rumored to have gotten its famous name from one of its apexes, Bermuda, since Bermuda is sometimes known as the Isle of Devils. This is because Bermuda’s shores are surrounded by treacherous reefs that have ensnared many a ship that has sailed too close to it, causing hundreds of shipwrecks.

Also dubbed the Devil’s Triangle, the Bermuda Triangle is an undefined region where numerous ships and aircraft's are said to have disappeared without a trace, with no logical explanation to explain the disappearances. Popular culture has stated that these mysterious disappearances were due to paranormal activity, or that those who have disappeared were taken away by extra terrestrial beings. However, some evidence has been uncovered that indicates that these incidents were mostly untrue, or exaggerated and embellished by later authors. Some, like the Navy of the United States of American, say that it does not exist, citing these evidence as evidence. Official entities such as the United States Board on Geographic Name also do not recognise it’s existence, and say that the name is not recognized. They also do not have an official file on this region. The 2013 study by the Wold Wide Fund for Nature to identify the world’s 10 most dangerous waters for shipping also does not include the Bermuda Triangle.

However, the area still remains as one of the most heavily traveled shipping lanes in the world. Countless numbers of ships pass through the area every day, heading for shipping ports in the Caribbean Islands, the Americas, and Europe. Cruise ships also pass through the area regularly. In addition, both commercial and private aircraft that are heading towards Florida, South America, and the Caribbean from areas further north pass through this area as well. And contrary to popular belief, insurance companies do not actually charge a higher premium when one is doing shipping in this area.

Theories

Over the years, numerous theses have been come up with in an attempt to provide a logical explanation for what we know as the Bermuda Triangle. Some of these theses are ‘practical’ and ‘logical’; others are not so plausible, pin pointing supernatural causes as the cause behind the Bermuda Triangle.

The following are some of the more plausible and natural theses that have been come up with to explain the cause behind the Bermuda Triangle:

  • Compass variations

Compasses possess natural magnetic variations in relation to the magnetics poles, meaning that compasses vary from location to location. Magnetic north (also known as compass north), and geographic north (also known as true north) are actually different in many regions of the world. They are only the same in a small number of places, such as the imaginary line running from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico within the United States of America. As such, it is common for compass readings to change as one moves from one area to another. Because of this, it also applies that compass readings change across different parts of the Bermuda Triangle, since it is such a large area. Some people have cited this as evidence, and theorised that unusual local magnetic anomalies may exist in the region of the Bermuda Triangle, but such an anomaly has not been officially found or proven yet.

  • Human error

One popular explanation to explain the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle is that of human error. Many have cited this as a reason to explain the mysterious incidents that have taken place within the Bermuda Triangle. For example, people have said that the list of aircraft or vessels that were supposedly lost in the Bermuda Triangle were not, in fact, lost. And that it is by human error that they were reported lost. One popular example of that of the Revenoc, the sailing yacht of a businessman named Harvey Conover. He sailed into a fierce storm south of Florida on the 1st of January, in 1958, and disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle. Some have chalked up this disappearance to the effects of the Bermuda Triangle, while others have said that it is simply stubbornness that caused Conover to sail right into the middle of a storm and hence disappear. Another reason why human error could have caused those mysterious disappearances is because the Bermuda Triangle region is one of the most highly traveled for amateur sailors and pilots. This higher proportion of amateur sailors and pilots traveling through the region would naturally lead to a higher proportion of accidents and disappearances.

  • Violent weather

Many have theorized that violent weather is actually the cause of the many disappearances that occurred in the Bermuda Triangle. This theory suggests that the disappearance of many vessels in the Bermuda Triangle were not actually due to mysterious forces, but because of violent weather, which may have caused the vessels to capsize and sink. Examples of such violent weather may include hurricanes or tsunamis. For instance, the Pride of Baltimore, a famous vessel, sank in the vicinity of the Bermuda Triangle on the 14th of May, in 1986. Its surviving crew have said that, moments before the sinking, the wind suddenly shifted and grew stronger and quicker. A weather specialist has diagnosed this strange occurrence as a powerful downdraft of cold air. As such, the sinking of the ship was not caused by any mysterious forces, but rather, was caused by violent weather. Another possible type of violent weather would be water sprouts. They are water borne tornados that pull water from the ocean surface high up into the sky, some even up to thousands of feet above water level. These could easily down and destroy passing planes, or sink passing ships.

  • Gulf Stream

The Gulf Stream is a strong, deep and turbulent ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico, hence earning itself the name of “Gulf Stream”. It flows from the Gulf of Mexico through the Straits of Florida before finally reaching the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a surface velocity of up to about 2.5 metres per second, and has enough force and strong current to drag a boat along with it, if that boat was too light, or if it had a particularly weak engine. The Gulf Stream is also turbulent enough to throw sailors hundreds of miles off course if they do not compensate correctly for the strong current. This would explain the mysterious disappearances. Hence, it is also another possible cause of mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle.

  • Rogue waves

Rogue waves, like violent weather, are another possible explanation for the mysterious disappearances within the Bermuda Triangle over the years. Rogue waves are capable of causing ships to topple and sink, or even to cause heavy oil platforms to topple. As such, it is a plausible explanation to explain mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. However, the cause of these rogue waves is unknown, and are thought to be a myth or a mystery.

  • Methane Gas Hydrates

Scientists have conducted experiments, tested for and confirmed the presence of large fields of methane hydrate gases, which is a form of natural gas, on the continental shelves due to dying and decomposing sea organisms. As it is commonly known, gases, when they are underwater, will take the form of bubbles. Scientists have found that when there are a lot of bubbles in a body of water, the density of the water will decrease. This can possibly cause ships to sink, as scientists have proven using scale model ships. In the case of methane hydrate gases, the high levels of methane hydrate gas causes periodic methane eruptions that are sometimes also known as mud volcanoes.

These mud volcanoes are known to cause the ocean water to become frothy and hence have a lower density, as a result rendering the ocean water unable to provide adequate buoyancy for ships that are passing by. This causes the ships to sink. Following the sinking, the Gulf Stream, as mentioned above, can easily disperse the wreckage of the sunken ship, hence causing search and rescue efforts to yield no results. Hence, methane hydrate gases are a plausible explanation for the mysterious disappearances of vessels in the Bermuda Triangle. However, according to the United States Geological Survey, they do not believe that there have been large releases of methane hydrate gases in the region of the Bermuda Triangle, at least for the past 15000 years. This rules out methane hydrate gases as the explanation behind the mysterious Bermuda Triangle.

  • Pirates

The pirates we are talking about here are modern pirates, and not historical pirates such as Blackbeard, or even fictional pirates such as Captain Hook or Captain Jack Sparrow. Modern pirates include drug runners using boats to smuggle drugs. They may well have something to do with some of the mysterious ship disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. Perhaps the modern day pirates took over the ‘lost ships’ in an attempt to further their drug smuggling endeavors.

Supernatural Theories

Over the years, people have also come up with many less plausible reasons to explain the existence of the Bermuda Triangle. Although some people scoff at these theses and brush them off, there are others who actually believe in these theories.

The following are some of the supernatural theses that have been come up with to explain the cause behind the Bermuda Triangle:

  • Alien abductions

Many have also attributed the mysterious happenings in the Bermuda Triangle to aliens and other supernatural beings. Specifically, they believe that the disappearances are not due to any natural reasons but are due to the fact that aliens have invaded and abducted these people. As an area with one of the highest incidences of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings, it is no wonder that this sort of theories have formed. In fact, many authors who have written fictional books, or film makers who have shot science fiction films about the Bermuda Triangle attribute the incidences to alien activity. A well known example would be famous director Steven Spielberg’s science fiction film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In this film, the crew of an aircraft was abducted by aliens.

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  • Portals

Some people have suggested that the Bermuda Triangle is a portal, either to an alternate dimension or to other planets. This theory suggests that the ‘lost’ ships and aircraft are not really lost, and have not disappeared due to any natural and logical reasons, but they have actually been teleported to neighboring planets in the solar system, or to Atlantis. This theory is closely linked to the theory of interference from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis.

  • Interference from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis

There is a submerged rock formation within the Bermuda Triangle which is sometimes said to be connected to Atlantis. Known as the Bimini Road, the submerged rock formation is off the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. The reason behind this belief is that long ago, purported psychic Edgar Cayce predicted that there would be evidence of Atlantis found in the year 1968. In that very same year, the Bimini Road was discovered, and hence some people take his prediction to be referring to the discovery of the Bimini Road, which looks like a stone path. These same people claim that the lost continent of Atlantis is the cause behind the mysterious disappearances that have taken place in the Bermuda Triangle. Geologists have studied the phenomenon extensively and consider this particular submerged rock formation to be of natural origin and not related to the lost continent of Atlantis at all. However, more recent investigations suggest otherwise. Studies have found evidence that appear to support the idea that the stones were shaped and placed there as a wall, and were in fact not naturally occurring after all. This could suggest that there truly existed an under water city, and this gives some credit to the theory of interference from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis.

Aside from this, there are also other reasons why the theory of interference from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis is one of the most popular reasons cited to explain the mysterious happenings in the Bermuda Triangle.

One such example is the discovery of an underwater pyramid and a crystal. A Dr. Ray Brown was scuba diving in the Bahamas when he supposedly found a large pyramid made out of what looked like mirror-like stone. He then entered this pyramid and found a brassy metallic rod that had a multifaceted gem, and this was hanging from the apex of the pyramid. Directly below this was a stand was bronze hands. In these bronze hands, there was a crystal sphere roughly four inches in diameter. He claims that this is one of the special energy crystals that were rumored to power to city of Atlantis. The discovery of such an item has led to more speculation about the interference from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis theory, sparking off more theories such as that one that suggests that these energy crystals from Atlantis send out some kind of rays of energy that can either confuse navigational instruments of vessels and aircraft hence causing them to become lost and ‘disappear’, or that they send out some kind of rays of energy that disintegrate passing vessels and aircraft all together.

Notable Disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle

Over the years, there have been numerous mysterious disappearances within the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle, although some are better known than others. The following are some of the more well known disappearances that have taken place in the Bermuda Triangle.

The Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste is a well known British-American merchant ship. On the 4th of December in 1872, it was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean, and all seven of its crew members were missing. It had been heading towards the Strait of Gibraltar. One lifeboat was missing as well, suggesting that its crew had abandoned ship. However, there was no logical reason as to why they would have done so, since the weather had been fine all along, and her crew had been very experienced and capable seamen. The boat itself was in good condition, and still had over six months’ worth of food and water on board, hence giving even less reason for the crew to abandon ship.

What’s more, the cargo on board was virtually untouched, hence ruling out the possibility of modern pirates, and the crew members’ personal belongings were still in place. None of the crew members were ever seen again. This mysterious incident has often been linked to the Bermuda Triangle, even though in reality, it was hundreds of miles away from the Bermuda Triangle at that time.

The U.S.S. Cyclops

The U.S.S. Cyclops was one of the largest Proteus-class colliers built for the United States Navy several years before World War I. On the 9th of January, 1918, she was assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, and was scheduled to head to Brazil to refuel British ships in the south Atlantic. However, it mysteriously disappeared without a trace within the region of the Bermuda Triangle, some time around the 4th of March in 1918, after setting out from Rio de Janeiro on the 16th of February and making a brief stop in Barbados from the 3rd of March to the 4th of March. About 306 crew members and passengers disappeared along with the boat and were never seen or heard from again.

Since this incident took place during war time, some have chalked up the disappearance to German raiders or submarines, speculating that the ship was either captured or sunk by enemy forces. This is a plausible explanation because the ship was carrying more than 10000 long tons of manganese ore, which are used to produce munitions. However, the German authorities denied any knowledge of the vessel. Another explanation often cited is that the vessel capsized and sank in a fierce storm, but no evidence has been found to prove this theory, and the disappearance of the U.S.S. Cyclops remains a mystery, and also remains as the single largest loss of life in U.S. Naval history that is not directly involved with combat.

U.S. Navy Avengers Flight 19

The story of the U.S. Navy Avengers Flight 19 is one of the most famous stories involving the Bermuda Triangle. Taking place in the year 1945, on the 5th of December, it involves five missing Navy Avengers. Five highly experienced student pilots set out on a routine patrol at midday, on a day with rather fine weather. However, moments later, the tower began to receive transmissions from the flight leader that they had gotten lost, and that their compasses were not working. They had even said that “everything looked wrong.” Soon after that, connections were cut off and they were never seen or heard from again. Extensive Navy investigations and searching yielded no results, and no clues as to what had happened as well.

The U.S. Navy was able to roughly pinpoint the location the Navy Avengers were at prior to the disappearance. As they were running low on fuel, the leader of the mission, Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor described a nearby large island to Operations. From the description, it sounded as if it was Andros Island, the largest island in the Bahamas, which meant the Flight 19 was indeed in the region of the Bermuda Triangle. However, after receiving instructions on directions from Operations, Lieutenant Taylor did not believe that they directions were correct, and made changes to their course of flight, ignoring the standard flying procedure. They soon went out of radio range and transmissions were cut off.

The U.S. Navy sent out two PMB-5 Mariner seaplanes to search the area for the five Navy Avengers but was not able to find anything of consequence. In fact, one of the PMB-5 Mariner seaplanes exploded soon after take off.

The S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen

The S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen was a tanker that was carrying about 15000 tons of molten sulphur in heated tanks, heading from Beaumont, Texas to Norfolk, Virginia. On the 3rd of February, 1963, the S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen’s captain radioed in a routine position report, stating that she was near Key West in the Florida Straits. That was the last time anyone ever heard from the S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen or any of its crew, as she never managed to reach Virginia.

Three days after that last position report, a Coast Guard search and rescue team found a single life jacket floating in the ocean, roughly 40 miles southwest of the last known position of the tanker. Speculation began, the most logical of which was that leaking sulphur could have caused the tanker to explode. The crew, if not killed in the explosion, could have been poisoned by escaping sulphur gas, hence preventing them from being able to send a distress call to ask for help. This theory is a possible one because just before dawn on the 3rd of February in the same year, officers on a Honduran banana boat reported to the Coast Guard that their freighter ran into a strong, acrid odor roughly 15 miles off Cape San Antonia, the western tip of Cuba. Also, the fact that none of the crew’s bodies were found can be attributed to the fact that the area was well known for being infested with sharks and barracuda. All these evidence prove the theory to be true.

Eventually, a number of items or parts of the S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen were retrieved by the U.S. Coast Guard. They include two pieces of board bearing the name of the ship, five life rings, one shirt, one piece of oar, one gasoline can, one oil can, one cone buoy, one fog horn, and eight life jackets, some of which had rips in them, believed to be caused by the teeth of sharks.

DC-3 Flight NC-16002

Flight NC-16002, a DC-3 commercial flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Miami, Florida, was captained by Captain Robert Linquist on the 28th of December, 1948. When the flight was 50 miles away from the Miami airport, he radioed in and requested for landing instructions. Personnel in the Miami tower radioed back with instructions, but never received a reply. The plane never arrived at the airport and was never heard from again. Some have said that the weather was clear and there was no radio trouble at that time, but the accident investigation report from the Civil Aeronautics Board suggests otherwise.

According to the Civil Aeronautics Board’s accident investigation report, the plane had been experiencing some electrical problems from the beginning, in San Juan, and was originally cancelled due to these difficulties. Its batteries needed a recharge in order to be able to communicate with the tower. However, Captain Lindquist went against protocol and instead of charging the batteries on land prior to take off, he instructed the ground crew to refill the water in the batteries and to only replace them in the plane. The Civil Aeronautics Board accident investigation report states that it is possible that a failure in aircraft’s electrical system made its radio and automatic compass malfunction after the final communication.

As such, Captain Lindquist was unable to communicate with the tower and learn about the changes in the weather – the wind direction had changed. This change in wind direction would have made Captain Lindquist’s plane drift left of its original course by up to 50 miles. As such, the plane would be far off course, with only seven and a half hours’ flight length worth of fuel. Hence it is possible that the plane had ran out of fuel and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, where the deep and turbulent water would cause any evidence of the crash to disappear almost immediately after impact.

Milwaukee’s 440th Airlift Wing, Plane 680

A seasoned and experienced flying crew from the United States of America Air Force Reserve Command’s 440th Airlift Wing flew on Plane 680 from Milwaukee on the often traveled Yankee Route to the Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas on a clear night in 1965. They managed to land safely at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida at about 5:00 pm, and they spent almost 3 hours on the ground before taking off again, heading south toward the Bahamas. However, they did not manage to reach their destination.

All along the entire flight, there was standard and routine radio communication, and no sign of trouble. Even if there had been mechanical problems, there was an expert maintenance crew on board, who could have easily taken care of it. When Plane 680 did not reach the Bahamas at the scheduled time, radio traffic controllers started to radio the plane, but received no response. Little evidence was found to give any clues as to what could have happened to Plane 680. All that was found was a few scraps of debris, and those could have been tossed out of the cargo plane; it wasn’t substantial enough evidence to prove that something had gone terribly wrong on the flight to the Bahamas. Until today, there is still no explanation for the disappearance of Plane 680. Some say that an unforeseen problem occurred, causing the plane to crash into the ocean and sink. Others chalk it up as another mysterious disappearance caused by the Bermuda Triangle.

More Recent Cases

Whilst some may say that the above-mentioned famous incidents were because of outdated technology that was not capable enough to successfully navigate vessels and aircraft, the same cannot be said for modern day cases. Even when equipped with the highly efficient and accurate GPS navigation system, some ships and planes have actually gone missing in recent years, and their cases have been attributed to the Bermuda Triangle. The following are just some examples of unexplained disappearances that took place in the last 40 years:

  • Cessna 210. 14th of June, 1999. Dropped off the radar from Freeport to Nassau.
  • Genesis motor vessel. 21st of April, 1999. Disappeared en route from the Port of Spain in Trinidad, to St. Vincent.
  • Jamanic K motor vessel. 20th of March, 1995. Disappeared en route from Cape Haitian to Miami.
  • Grumman Cougar Jet. 31st of October, 1991.
  • Piper Cherokee N3527E. 26th of March, 1986.
  • Beech Bonzana. 6th of January, 1981.
  • Ercoupe N3808H. 28th of June, 1980.
  • Beechcraft N9027Q. 11th of February, 1980.
  • Fighting Tiger 524. 22nd of February, 1978.
  • DC-3 N407D. 21st of September, 1978.

Similar places

There is another body of water that has a similar reputation to the Bermuda Triangle, although it is definitely not as well known. Located off the coast of Japan, in a region of the Pacific Ocean around Miyake Island, about 110 miles south of the city of Tokyo, is a region known as The Devil’s Sea.

Some times also known as the Formosa Triangle, The Devil’s Sea is well known amongst Japanese fishermen to be similar to the Bermuda Triangle. There have been mysterious and unexplained disappearances in that area as well. Like the Bermuda Triangle, The Devil’s Sea does not appear on any official maps as well, and also has its own set of theories to explain its mysteries.

References

1. A Brief History of the Bermuda Triangle http://www.bermuda-attractions.com/bermuda2_000050.htm

2. Bermuda Triangle - Naval History and Heritage http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq8-3.htm

3. The “Mystery” of the Bermuda Triangle http://www.unmuseum.org/triangle.htm

4. Bermuda Triangle: Where Facts Disappear http://www.livescience.com/23435-bermuda-triangle.html

5. Bermuda Triangle Mystery - Facts and Myths http://www.bermuda-attractions.com/bermuda2_00004e.htm

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