The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's Triangle, is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and surface vessels are claimed to have disappeared mysteriously. Popular culture has attributed these disappearances to the paranormal or activity by extra-terrestrial beings. Documented evidence indicates that a significant percentage of the incidents were inaccurately reported or embellished by later authors, and numerous official agencies have stated that the number and nature of disappearances in the region is similar to that in any other area of ocean.
The Triangle area
The boundaries of the triangle cover the Straits of Florida, the Bahamas and the entire Caribbean island area and the Atlantic east to the Azores. The more familiar triangular boundary in most written works has as its points somewhere on the Atlantic coast of Miami; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda. The area is one of the most heavily travelled shipping lanes in the world, with ships crossing through it daily for ports in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean Islands. Cruise ships are also plentiful, and pleasure craft regularly go back and forth between Florida and the islands. It is also a heavily flown route for commercial and private aircraft heading towards Florida, the Caribbean, and South America from points north.
The earliest allegation of unusual disappearances in the Bermuda area appeared in a September 16, 1950 Associated Press article by Edward Van Winkle Jones. Two years later, Fate magazine published "Sea Mystery At Our Back Door", a short article by George X. Sand covering the loss of several planes and ships, including the loss of Flight 19, a group of five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger bomber aircraft on a training mission. Sand's article was the first to describe the now-familiar triangular area where the losses took place. Flight 19 alone would be covered in the April 1962 issue of American Legion Magazine. It was claimed that 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 white." It was also claimed that officials at the Navy board of inquiry stated that the planes "flew off to Mars." Sand's article was the first to suggest a supernatural element to the Flight 19 incident. In the February 1964 issue of Argosy, Vincent Gaddis's article "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle" argued that Flight 19 and other disappearances were part of a pattern of strange events in the region. The next year, Gaddis expanded this article into a book, Invisible Horizons.
Others would follow with their own works, elaborating on Gaddis's ideas: John Wallace Spencer (Limbo of the Lost, 1969, repr. 1973); Charles Berlitz (The Bermuda Triangle, 1974); Richard Winer (The Devil's Triangle, 1974), and many others, all keeping to some of the same supernatural elements outlined by Eckert.
Text 2 Larry Kusche
Lawrence David Kusche, a research librarian from Arizona State University and author of The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved (1975) argued that many claims of writers were often exaggerated, dubious or unverifiable. Kusche's research revealed a number of inaccuracies and inconsistencies between authors’ accounts and statements from eyewitnesses, participants, and others involved in the initial incidents. Kusche noted cases where important information went unreported, such as the disappearance of round-the-world yachtsman Donald Crowhurst, which Berlitz had presented as a mystery, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Another example was the cargo ship recounted in one book as lost without trace three days out of an Atlantic port when it had been lost three days out of a port with the same name in thePacific Ocean. Kusche also argued that a large percentage of the incidents that sparked allegations of the Triangle's mysterious influence actually occurred well outside it. Often his research was simple: he would review period newspapers of the dates of reported incidents and find reports on possibly relevant events like unusual weather, that were never mentioned in the disappearance stories.
Kusche concluded that:
The number of ships and aircraft reported missing in the area was not significantly greater, proportionally speaking, than in any other part of the ocean.
In an area frequented by tropical storms, the number of disappearances that did occur were, for the most part, neither disproportionate, unlikely, nor mysterious; furthermore, Berlitz and other writers would often fail to mention such storms.
The numbers themselves had been exaggerated by sloppy research. A boat's disappearance, for example, would be reported, but its eventual (if belated) return to port may not have been.
Some disappearances had, in fact, never happened. One plane crash was said to have taken place in 1937 off Daytona Beach, Florida, in front of hundreds of witnesses; a check of the local papers revealed nothing.
The legend of the Bermuda Triangle is a manufactured mystery, perpetuated by writers who either purposely or unknowingly made use of misconceptions, faulty reasoning, and sensationalism.
Text 3 Other responses
When the UK Channel 4 television program "The Bermuda Triangle" (c. 1992) was being produced, the shipping insurance agency, Lloyd's of London, was asked if an unusually large number of ships had sunk in the Bermuda Triangle area. Lloyd's of London reported that large numbers of ships had not sunk there.
United States Coast Guard records confirm their conclusion. In fact, the number of supposed disappearances is relatively insignificant considering the number of ships and aircraft that pass through on a regular basis.
The Coast Guard is also officially sceptical of the Triangle, noting that they collect and publish, through their inquiries, much documentation contradicting many of the incidents written about by the Triangle authors. In one such incident involving the 1972 explosion and sinking of the tanker SS V. A. Fogg in the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard photographed the wreck and recovered several bodies, in contrast with one Triangle author's claim that all the bodies had vanished, with the exception of the captain, who was found sitting in his cabin at his desk, clutching a coffee cup.
Sceptical researchers have noted how mysteries and the paranormal are very popular and profitable. This has led to the production of vast amounts of material on topics such as the Bermuda Triangle. They were able to show that some of the pro-paranormal material is often misleading or inaccurate, but its producers continue to market it. Accordingly, they have claimed that the market is biased in favour of books, TV specials, and other media that support the Triangle mystery, and against well-researched material if it puts forward a sceptical viewpoint.
Many writers attribute the events to UFOs. This idea was used by Steven Spielberg for his science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which features the lost Flight 19 aircrews as being kidnapped by aliens.
Charles Berlitz, author of various books on anomalous phenomena, lists several theories attributing the losses in the Triangle to anomalous or unexplained forces.
Text 4 Natural explanations
Compass problems are often mentioned in many Triangle incidents. While some have theorized that unusual local magnetic anomalies may exist in the area, such anomalies have not been shown to exist. Compasses have natural magnetic variations in relation to the magnetic poles, a fact which navigators have known for centuries. Magnetic (compass) north and geographic (true) north are only exactly the same for a small number of places - for example, as of 2000 in the United States only those places on a line running from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico. But the public may not be as informed, and think there is something mysterious about a compass "changing" across an area as large as the Triangle, which it naturally will.
Deliberate acts of destruction
Piracy—the illegal capture of a craft on the high seas—continues to this day. Piracy for cargo theft is more common in the western Pacific and Indian oceans rather than the Atlantic. However, drug smugglers do steal pleasure boats for smuggling operations, and may have been involved in crew and yacht disappearances in the Caribbean. Piracy in the Caribbean was common from about 1560 to the 1760s, and famous pirates included Edward Teach (Blackbeard) and Jean Lafitte.
One of the most cited explanations in official inquiries as to the loss of any aircraft or vessel is human error. Whether deliberate or accidental, humans have been known to make mistakes resulting in catastrophe, and losses within the Bermuda Triangle are no exception. For example, the Coast Guard cited a lack of proper training for the cleaning of explosive benzene waste as a reason for the loss of the tanker SS V.A. Fogg in 1972. Human stubbornness may have caused businessman Harvey Conover to lose his sailing yacht, the Revonoc, as he sailed into the centre of a storm south of Florida on January 1, 1958.
An explanation for some of the disappearances has focused on the presence of vast areas of methane hydrates (a form of natural gas) under the water. Laboratory experiments carried out in Australia have proven that gas bubbles can, indeed, sink a scale model ship by decreasing the density of the water; any wreckage consequently rising to the surface would be rapidly dispersed by the Gulf Stream. It has been suggested that occasional methane eruptions (sometimes called "mud volcanoes") 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. Publications by the USGS describe large stores of undersea hydrates worldwide, including the Blake Ridge area, off the south eastern United States coast. However, according to another of their papers, no large releases of gas hydrates are believed to have occurred in the Bermuda Triangle for the past 15,000 years.
Text 5 Notable incidents
Flight 19 was a training flight of TBM Avenger bomber aircraft that went missing on December 5, 1945 while over the Atlantic. Their flight path was scheduled to take them due east for 120 miles, north for 73 miles, and then back over a final 120-mile leg that would return them to the naval base, but they never returned. The impression is given that the flight encountered unusual phenomena and irregular compass readings, and that the flight took place on a calm day under the supervision of an experienced pilot, Lt. Charles Carroll Taylor. Adding to the mystery is that the Navy's report concluded the accident was due to "causes or reasons unknown."
While the basic facts of this version of the story are essentially accurate, some important details are missing. The weather was becoming stormy by the end of the incident, and naval reports and written recordings of the conversations between Taylor and the other pilots of Flight 19 do not indicate magnetic problems.
A 500-page Navy board of investigation report published a few months later made several observations. Taylor had mistakenly believed that some small islands he passed over were the Florida Keys, so his flight was over the Gulf of Mexico and heading northeast would take them to Florida. It was determined that Taylor had passed over the Bahamas as scheduled, and he did in fact lead his flight to the northeast over the Atlantic. The report noted that some subordinate officers did likely know their approximate position as indicated by radio transmissions stating that flying west would result in reaching the mainland. Taylor, although an excellent combat pilot and officer with the Navy, had a tendency to fly according to his instinct and intuition rather than use navigation instruments and would get lost several times in the process. On two previous occasions he had to crash his plane in the Pacific Ocean and be rescued.
Blame for the loss of Flight 19 was placed on Taylor. This report was subsequently amended "cause unknown" by the Navy after Taylor's mother contended that the Navy was unfairly blaming her son for the loss of five aircraft and 14 men and the Navy had neither the bodies nor the airplanes as evidence.
SS Marine Sulphur Queen
SS Marine Sulphur Queen, a Second World War tanker (ship) converted from oil to sulphur carrier, was last heard from on February 4, 1963 with a crew of 39 near the Florida Keys. The Marine Sulphur Queen was the first vessel mentioned in Vincent Gaddis' 1964 Argosy Magazine article, but he claimed the ship had "sailed into the unknown", despite the Coast Guard report, which not only documented the ship's badly-maintained history, but declared that it was an unseaworthy vessel that should never have gone to sea.