The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is located in the northwestern Atlantic ocean. Also known as the Devil’s Triangle, it is blamed for the mysterious disappearance of a number of planes and boats. While some cases have been distorted, many of these disappearances remain unexplained.

Maps of the Bermuda Triangle vary, depending on the source (see map at the end of this article). Regardless of which triangle you use, this area is very heavily travelled by ships that cross daily. Aircraft use these routes, too, to travel between South America, Florida, and the Caribbean.

An ocean current called the Gulf Stream passes through the area. This strong current travels at 5-6 knots, and has caused problems for boats in the past. Additionally, the weather is tempestuous. Sudden storms are common, and hurricanes occur from summer to late fall. This combination of dangers has led to many vessels being lost at sea, disappearing without a trace (especially before improved communication technology arrived in the 20th century).

Christopher Columbus was the first to report strange occurrences in the Triangle. On October 11, 1492, his log entry reports strange lights flickering on the horizon. On another date, he reported strange compass readings in the area. He saw strange flames in the sky, in areas where there was no land. Modern scholars claim that the lights were nothing more than cooking fire of the Taino natives, while the compass problems were the result of a false star reading. Proponents of the Triangle remain unconvinced.

Author George X. Sand was one of the first to publish an article on the Bermuda Triangle, in which he discussed the loss of Flight 19, among others. He was the first to lay out the boundaries of the triangle as we know them today. Over the decades, many authors have seized the torch, providing explanations that relied on the supernatural more than science.

In some books and articles, authors embellished or distorted the facts to fit their case. Subsequent research pokes holes in a number of alleged “mysterious disappearances”, showing the causes to be entirely natural and identifiable. Some disappearances never happened, or were caused by mundane occurrences like ocean storms. Further, the number of ships and planes reported missing within the Triangle isn’t proportionally different from the number of disappearances recorded in other parts of the ocean. It is for this reason that critics of the Bermuda Triangle theory label it nothing more than a self-perpetuating myth.

The ocean is a dangerous place. Pirates operate much as they have for centuries, stealing and killing. Rogue waves, deadly hurricanes, the Gulf Stream, and human error can, and do, kill. Still, some disappearances have never been explained. Ships have been found aimlessly floating, the crew mysteriously vanished from the site.

Donald Crowhurst boarded his trimaran in England on October 31, 1968. In July 1969, it was found south of the Azores; no sign of Donald was found. The ship log shows a record of an experienced sailor plunging into irrationality, gradually losing control of his life. The final entry was dated June 29. No trace of him was ever found.

The USS Cyclops departed Barbados in 1918 with a crew of 306 on board. Under Commander Worley, the ship disappeared without a trace. Many explanations have been presented, but it remains unexplained.

Perhaps the most famous disappearance is that of Flight 19, a training flight of bombers that disappeared over the Atlantic in December 1945. the flight started under calm conditions, though the weather was deteriorating. Most of the pilots were inexperienced, though the leader, Lt. Charles Taylor, had flown during WWII. They were never seen again, and no traces of wreckage have ever been discovered.

US Navy TBF Grumman Avenger flight, similar to Flight 19. This photo had been used by various Triangle authors to illustrate Flight 19 itself. (US Navy). Courtesy Wikipedia.
Maps of the Bermuda Triangle vary, depending on the source. Courtesy Wikipedia.