Bermuda Triangle Facts and Myths
What is Bermuda Triangle?
Bermuda Triangle is an imaginary triangular area on the western part of North Atlantic where many ships sailing through it or planes flying over it had allegedly disappeared mysteriously over the past centuries. The imaginary Bermuda Triangle (whose boundaries have never been universally agreed upon) is located off the South-Eastern coast of the United States. As popularly promoted, the three corners of the triangle are: Miami (in Florida); San Juan (in Puerto Rico); and Bermuda (a north-Atlantic island on which it has been so named).
Why is Bermuda Triangle an imaginary or a mythical area? Because there is no official map that shows the boundaries of the triangle or indicates the location of the triangular area
. In fact, U. S. Board on Geographic Names and US Navy do not even recognize an area called Bermuda Triangle.
So, how did the Bermuda triangle mystery emerge?
It was all started by authors who were novelists, and the mystery was initially perpetuated by them. While we all know that novel writers are good in wild imaginations, but many of those authors were actually quite popular in their time and well respected.
The mystery started to catch attention in 1952 when George Sand
wrote an article in the American magazine Fate
which focuses mainly on paranormal anecdotes. He wrote about incidents like Flight-19
, a training flight of five torpedo bomber planes, all of which went missing during a routine training session in 1945 and never returned. This article 'Sea mystery at our back door
' was one of the first to hint at paranormal element in this sea area.
In February-1964, the author Vincent Gaddis
wrote an article 'The Deadly Bermuda Triangle
' in the American pulp magazine Argosy
and he was the first to define the boundary of the triangle
. In his article, he mentioned that Flight-19 and other incidents of disappearances
in Bermuda triangle fall into a pattern of strange events. In 1965, he went ahead and expanded this article into a complete book and named it 'Invisible Horizons
But it was in 1974, when the best-seller 'The Bermuda Triangle' by author Charles Berlitz was published, it took the world by a storm. Nearly 20 million copies of the book were sold in 30 different languages. Berlitz was also a believer of paranormal and tried to connect the Lost City of Atlantis to the Bermuda Triangle incidents, and several disappearances to extraterrestrial.
Supposedly, Charles Berlitz (whose family created popular language courses), himself came to hear about Bermuda Triangle for the first time from his travel agency who mentioned that his customers wanted to avoid flying over the triangle area. Nevertheless, this hugely popular book inspired many films, documentaries, TV shows and authors to promote the tales around Bermuda Triangle.
Photo: Tanya Hart, cc by-sa 3.0, Wikimedia Commons
One such explanation is based on methane hydrates
that are highly inflammable crystal-like compounds. If they can get trapped below the ocean floor (a geological phenomena that is hypothetically possible), and if methane gas erupts from such hydrates, it lowers the density of the water and its buoyancy, and can easily sink a ship. While that might be a remote and hypothetical possibility, it has never been seen or known to have happened in or anywhere near the Bermuda Triangle.
Another theory was the Compass Variation
. It was said that Bermuda Triangle is one place where the compass points to the True North (i.e. the geographic north pole) and the captains failed to make the necessary adjustments. The fact is, a compass always points to the Magnetic North and not the True North. There are a few points on earth's surface such as a narrow channel in Bermuda Triangle, where the angular difference between these two north poles becomes zero and that is when they appear to be on a straight line to a ship.
Unless a compass variation is adjusted by the captain, the ship could land up miles away from its targeted destination. But the assumption that why some captains might not have done this, is never answered. Even in earlier days, all captains were well trained and experienced in preparing the navigation charts taking into account the compass variation, as a matter of routine practice.
And there were also theories proposed around some Electronic Fog
that would appear from nowhere and engulf a ship or a plane and finally causing it to disappear.
Another theory that became quite popular was about the Sargasso Sea
where nature's law apparently seemed to be different and unusual. Sargasso Sea is a sea-area in North Atlantic which is bounded by ocean currents in all sides. The exceptionally calm sea, still winds, and the vast dense sea weeds that float on the water surface here would have stranded many sailing ships in the early days. Although several derelicts were found here, in modern days any ship can easily steam through this water area.
Believers of paranormal brought in several supernatural explanations
to the incidents as well. Few of such bizarre theories included the mythical City of Atlantis that lay under the ocean is able to destroy ships and planes with its powerful crystal energy, aliens capturing aircraft for their experimentation, time-warp in the triangle area taking ships, planes and people into a different time and space (which has never been seen or proven till date), etc.
Through generations, the legend evolved and took a mammoth shape of its own through various such hypothetical and imaginary explanations. It kept spreading rapidly through authors, TV channels, news magazines and other media, and started encompassing stories such as aircraft, ships, crew and passengers disappearing without a trace even under normal weather conditions, abandoned ships seen on sail, mysterious wrecks identified, electronic fog engulfing planes, time portals transporting human beings to another time & space, and so on. And gradually and quite unfortunately, the manufactured mystery around Bermuda Triangle became a reality in the minds of millions all over the world.
So, what are the facts?
Well, the facts are quite far from what has been generally perpetuated by the books and media. Many stories and myths have been created by writers through sheer speculations, imaginations and grossly erroneous research. Documented evidences through scientific research show that in most cases where adequate information could be gathered for investigation, it was found that the incidents were caused due to either equipment failure, human error or violent weather conditions. Many reputable sources have completely debunked the idea of any mystery behind Bermuda Triangle.
Here are what the experts and sources say...
Lawrence David Kusche was an American research librarian in Arizona State University. He was also a pilot himself and an author. Kusche published his famous book 'The Bermuda Triangle Mystery - Solved' in 1975.
This book was a result of his extensive research on numerous incidents (over 50 of them) that reportedly took place in Bermuda Triangle between 1840 and 1973. Most of his research was based on news published on newspapers of the periods, checking out the meteorological reports of the days the incidents took place, information collected through interactions with many Naval officers and crew, etc.
Here are Larry Kusche's findings which he documented in his book:
The study also showed that number of incidents in Bermuda Triangle is not significantly more compared to any other ocean area particularly considering the fact that this ocean area is one of the most heavily traveled ocean channels in the world.
Kusche also pointed out that several authors had misconceptions, made faulty observations, and wrongly reported several incidents to create sensational stories. In fact, many incidents actually took place far outside the triangle area.
Some reported incidents actually did not take place at all. For example, in 1937, a plane crash was reported off Daytona beach. However, no such report was found in the local newspapers when the incident had supposedly taken place.
The research outcome also showed numerous incoherent and inaccurate information in Charles Berlitz's account and his mentions of eyewitnesses and other participants. In one such case, Berlitz misreported a ship disappearing three days after it left a port in the Atlantic, while the fact was the ship actually left a port with the same name in the Pacific ocean which was over 3,000 miles away.
In another case, Charles Berlitz misreported that Donald Crowhurst, the yachtsman who participated in Golden Globe Race in 1968, disappeared without a trace. It was clear from the log books and other documentation found in the boat that Crowhurst committed suicide because he was not in a position to complete the circumnavigation of round-the-world yachting competition, and thought he would face humiliation and financial ruin.
Charles Berlitz and other writers often cited incidents taking place in calm waters although it was clearly evident from the meteorological reports that the ships encountered strong cyclones or storms. And sometimes, a ship's disappearance was reported, but its return, although belated, was not.
Kusche came to the conclusion that Bermuda Triangle is a "Manufactured Mystery"... there is no real mystery about it and most of the incidents were either mere accidents or result of violent weather, human error, equipment failure or were simply misreported (often deliberately). Kusche later noted that Charles Berlitz's research was so sloppy that "If Berlitz were to report that a boat were red, the chance of it being some other color is almost a certainty."
Karl Kruszelnicki is a well known Australian author and a science communicator. During his interview with news.com.au in July 2017, he claimed that there is no mystery behind Bermuda Triangle at all. Below are some of the points he made related to Bermuda Triangle:
"It is close to the Equator, near a wealthy part of the world – America - therefore you have a lot of traffic". He explained that considering the heavy traffic of planes and ships across Bermuda Triangle, there is nothing out of the ordinary about the number of incidents that took place in this area.
He further referred to the Lloyds of London and US Coast Guards' consistent statements that there is nothing unusual in Bermuda Triangle when one compares the number of such incidents with that of other ocean areas in a percentage basis.
Disappearance of Flight-19 (the training flight of five avenger bomber planes) created a widespread menace and further propelled the mystery around Bermuda Triangle. Vincent Gaddis published his book 'The Deadly Bermuda Triangle' in 1964 where he put forth his own account and theories around it and mentioned that the planes vanished in ideal flight conditions. Kruszelnicki clarified that the weather wasn't fine at all... the ocean was then swelling with 49-ft waves.
Grumman TBM Avengers similar to Flight 19
He further stated that the flight squadron leader Lieutenant Charles Taylor "arrived with a hangover, flew off without a watch, and had a history of getting lost and ditching his plane twice before". The radio transcripts clearly indicated that Taylor was hopelessly lost and did not take the advice from his junior pilots to fly in the right direction. The planes eventually ran out of fuel and ditched into the foaming sea in the darkness.
Two rescue seaplanes PBM Martin Mariners were sent for the Flight-19 search operation. Gaddis in his book mentioned that one of them vanished without a trace. To this Kruszelnicki said... "It didn’t vanish without a trace, [It] was seen to blow up". A tanker off the coast of Florida observed this explosion. Oil slicks and debris were found. In fact, the PBM Martin Mariners were known to be prone to explosion due to gas leakage when the tanks were full. The US Navy grounded all such Mariner seaplanes after this incident.
Barnette is a Marine Biologist and a scuba diver who busted the myths surrounding the coal ship SS Cotopaxy that disappeared in 1925 and could not be traced for a century. On November 29, 1925 Cotopaxy carrying 3,800 tons of coal and 32 crew was reported lost on its way from Charleston to Havana. And this incident fanned the myth of the mystery so much that the ship reappeared in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', shown in tact in Gobi desert.
Barnette had first located Cotopaxy back in 2010 during one of his scuba diving trips. It's lying off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida and mostly buried in sand about 100ft below the surface. This wreck is popularly known as 'Bear Wreck'. He wrote about his findings in his book 'Encyclopedia of Florida Shipwrecks, Volume I: Atlantic Coast' published in 2013. But it did not get much attention then.
In January 2020 when Cotopaxy started making headlines again in well known media channels, Barnette teamed up with Science Channel to document his discovery and findings in a series named as Shipwreck Secrets which was premiered in February, and that nailed the story.
Here is what Barnette had to say...
"A lot of times there's numerous shipwreck accidents or a missing aircraft and the Bermuda Triangle kills a story. That's not the story - that's an excuse, right? No one really wants to look for it. And then you say, 'Oh, it's lost in Bermuda triangle'. But, in actuality, there are very real circumstances that led to these sinkings or disappearances. And without actually finding the wreck, you won't actually know the real cause and the real drama. The real story is what happened to the crew, the passengers."
Lloyd's of London
Lloyd's of London is a large insurance marketplace since long. They insure ships on voyage. When Lloyd's was asked by a UK television channel (UK Channel 4) in 1992 if they noted unusual number of ships sinking or getting lost in Bermuda Triangle, they responded that the so called disappearances were not large in number and nothing unusual compared to any other ocean areas. They further confirmed that they do not even charge higher than usual insurance rates to cruise lines for voyages through Bermuda Triangle area.
The US Coast Guard
The US Coast Guard also has gone on record that the number of reported missing cases in Bermuda Triangle is nothing unusual. In fact, they contradicted many such alleged triangle disappearances in their reports after having conducted the necessary search.
When the tanker SS V. A. Fogg exploded and sank in 1972, a triangle writer published that all bodies had disappeared except that of the captain who was seen in his cabin clutching on to his coffee cup. In reality, the US Coast Guard report stated that several bodies were recovered, and further, the tanker sank off the coast of Texas and nowhere near the Bermuda Triangle area.
WWF Study Report
A study conducted in 2013 for WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) had given an account of the 10 most accident prone ocean areas in the world for shipping. And that report does not include Bermuda Triangle. In fact, based on the accidents recorded, the most dangerous water areas are South China Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which is a U.S. Governmental agency, has also stated that "There is no evidence that mysterious disappearances occur with any greater frequency in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other large, well-traveled area of the ocean".
I had earlier mentioned about 'Fate'... the US magazine where George Sand's article of 1952 created a ripple around the mystery of Bermuda Triangle. Fate was founded in 1948 and is still operational... it claims to be the longest running magazine on the subjects of paranormal.
Jerome Clark, a well known American author who also regularly contributed to the Fate magazine, stated that although Fate is mostly about paranormal phenomena, it has a lot of content that actually involved serious research and investigations. Time to time, the magazine also debunks articles that make dubious and baseless claims. And among those articles that have been already debunked, are the ones on the subjects of City of Atlantis and Bermuda Triangle. This clearly shows, even Fate considers the mystery of the triangle as baseless.
Shipwrecks around Bermuda
Photo: Heidi Hess
So, why so many ships found their graveyard around Bermuda? The answer is simple... around 200 square miles of water area surrounding Bermuda is full of treacherous underwater reefs
. In the early days when the captains had to mainly depend on the compass and charts for navigation, these reefs posed major hazards for the ships crossing the area. The reefs rising from the bottom of the sea and hidden below the water surface tore apart the hulls of numerous ships that passed over them.
These days however with advanced GPS navigational systems, captains can easily navigate around the hidden reefs and such accidents haven't taken place since many years.
Some Major Incidents
Below are some reports of ships and planes that met with ill fate while crossing the triangle area. As you visit the links, you will also see my findings. In most cases I have discussed and explained the possible causes as investigated and brought out by the experts, and in some I have also given excerpts from official reports that were produced by the US Navy, US Air Force and US Coast Guard.
The disappearance of the cargo ship Cyclops with 309 crew onboard resulted in the single largest loss of lives in the history of US Navy. It started from Barbados with full load of Manganese ore and was scheduled to reach Baltimore on March 13, 1918, but it never did. A few days later, it was considered lost in the sea.
USS Cyclops anchored on Hudson River in 1911
Although the exact reason is still unknown until now, some experts suggest that it could be due to heavy storm causing it to capsize, others say it could be due to wartime enemy activities etc. However, the most acceptable of all the causes is... it had a structural failure due to overloading and eventually sank. In fact, two of its sister ships Proteus and Nereus too were lost in North Atlantic during World War II, and both were carrying similar heavy metallic ores like that of Cyclops.
Mary Celeste, a 103-foot brigantine, had many misadventures even before her mystery voyage in 1872. But this time, although the ship could be salvaged, none on board could ever be traced. On December 4, 1872 it was found abandoned on sea.
To date, there has been no theory that explains this mysterious abandonment with any clear evidence. However, a greater mystery is how and why this incident somehow got connected to Bermuda Triangle. After all, the abandoned ship was found between the Azores and Portugal, and about 590 miles west of Gibraltar which is nowhere near Bermuda Triangle.
The Ellen Austin, an American schooner, met with an unknown ship in 1981 on Atlantic during its voyage from London to New York. Strangely the unknown ship had nobody on board although it was still on sail. The captain of Ellen Austin sent his salvage crew to the unknown ship and asked them to sail together to New York. However according to reports, the unknown ship disappeared after two days during a storm. It reappeared after a few days, but this time too there was nobody onboard.
The above sequence of events actually tallied with the account of a retired Navy Commander Rupert Gould who detailed the incident in his book. However, no further information could be retrieved on the matter, and Larry Kusche noted that this could remain a mystery until somebody finds the source or the basis of Gould's account, and it could remain a mystery even thereafter due to lack of adequate information.
This is another case of an abandoned and stranded vessel which created one of the biggest maritime mysteries of all times. While returning from Rio de Janeiro of Brazil to Portland in Maine in January 1921, it was found abandoned and derelict at Diamond Shoals, off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. But all the 11 crewmen including the captain were missing and never to be found again.
Several possible explanations came up. The lifeboats were missing, and the Coast Guards assumed that the crew and the captain felt it was a doomed ship and fled on the lifeboats only to be lost in the sea.
Another explanation... Deering could have been a victim of piracy at a time when illegal and prohibited rum running trade was prevalent. An unknown ship (often referred as the steamer Hewitt) was seen following Deering's route and ignored the signals of a lightship near Cape Lookout. It is said that this unknown ship would have cleared out the crew of Deering.
Five Avenger planes of Flight-19 took off from the U.S Naval Base Fort Lauderdale located in Florida for a routine training session on an afternoon of December 1945. The squadron was to fly 141 miles east, then 73 miles north and then back 140 miles to complete the circuit. But strangely this time they never returned.
The final US Navy report suggested that navigational error was the cause to this accident as the planes ran out of fuel and ditched into the rough sea. In fact, the flight squadron leader Charles Taylor had a history of getting lost and ditching planes earlier too. The radio transmission also verified that he did not listen to a trainee's suggestion to correct the path and fly in the right direction, instead being confused, chose to continue in the wrong direction.
When all hopes for the above Flight-19 planes were quickly fading, two rescue Martin Mariner planes (flying boats that could land on sea) were sent by the US Navy to search them out. After extensive fruitless search operation, one of them returned, but the other didn't. Why?
PBM Martin Mariner
The weather was stormy when this incident took place. And the Mariners had a history of exploding due to vapor leaks when flying with full tank. A tanker off the coast of Florida noticed a huge explosion on the sea area and found widespread oil slicks. The seaplanes were already nicknamed 'Flying Gas Tank'. The US Navy grounded all PBM Martin Mariners following this incident.
USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was a Nuclear powered submarine of United States Navy that disappeared in May 1968. Although the wrecks were found and the incident is often related to Bermuda Triangle, in reality it occurred near Africa and Portugal, and not in Bermuda Triangle.
on January 30, 1948, Star Tiger, a Tudor Mark-IV aircraft operated by British South American Airways disappeared from the radar while flying in from Azores and shortly before it was about to land at the Bermuda airport. Due to strong headwinds, it was flying at a critically low altitude of only 2,000ft and there was no margin for any human error or faults in any equipment.
The aircraft Douglas DC-3 left San Juan (in Puerto Rico) on December 28, 1948 for Miami. It disappeared when it was only 50 miles south of Florida and about to land in Miami. A massive search operation was launched within a few hours. The weather was fine, sea was calm and so shallow in this part that large sunken objects could be easily seen on the bottom.
Hundreds of ships and search places combed the entire area, but no trace of the plane and its passengers were found. A Civil Aeronautics Board investigation reported that insufficient information was available to find the exact cause of the disappearance.
A Super Constellation Naval Airliner disappeared in October 1954 near the north of the triangle. It had 42 passengers aboard. It had two powerful radio transmitters but did not send out any emergency message. A massive search operation was carried out, but no trace of the aircraft or its passengers were found. Commander Andrew Bright, Director of the Navy's Aviation unit admitted that there was no official explanation given to the cause of this loss.
This 524-foot carrier started sail on Feb 2, 1963 from Beaumont, Texas to Norfolk, Virginia with 39 crew and full load of molten sulphur kept at 275°F. It was reported lost in Florida Straits on February 4. A vast search resulted into nothing but a few life jackets and little debris. After long investigations and deliberations, the Coast Guard came out with a few possibilities that could cause the loss but failed to find a definite explanation.
It is well known that marine and airway channels across Bermuda Triangle remain one of the busiest and most commercially used routes in the world. They are used extensively by numerous cruise lines and airlines connecting the USA, Europe, Caribbean islands, Bermuda, South America and even Africa.
Do you think this would have been possible if the triangle area played foul with the ships and planes, and more than in any other ocean areas? Since this is one of the busiest ocean channels, there should have been more likelihood of accidents here than places where there is much less traffic. But as already mentioned, Bermuda Triangle doesn't even figure in the top 10 most accident prone ocean areas in the world.
Landing at Bermuda
The tourists mostly arrive from the US, UK and Canada, and the rest from various other parts of the world. And they all cross the Bermuda Triangle by cruise ship or plane. Bermuda could not have been a top island destination in the first place if the triangle behaved mysteriously by any means, or if the safety of tourists in Bermuda was in question.
And same is the reality with the other two corners of the triangle. Puerto Rico is another popular island destination in Caribbean with its warm climate, location and rich history. And of course, very few beaches in the world can match that of Miami, when it comes to the popularity of beaches.
'The Bermuda Triangle Mystery - Solved': book by Larry Kusche (1975)
Katsibi A. C
I must confess that this article is a masterpiece. Just this morning, we got discussing with a colleague about the possible cause for the missing AirAsia and the Bermuda Triangle theory was brought up. I needed to google it to find out what it really is. Now, I understand much more deeper and can explain to anyone needing knowledge on it. Sir, your findings are rich, educating and informative. More power to your elbow. Thank you.
Great article. I remember my dad telling me how he handled mysteries like this. One day, he was outside at night, and began to see a very bright blueish light reflecting off the trees. Back in that day, most people would've stopped there and claimed to have seen a UFO. However, he decided to investigate... only to find that someone over the next hill was welding and this was causing the bright light on the trees. Conclusion: he never said that all things can be explained, but implied that at least some if not most unsolved "mysteries" could be solved with just a little investigation, and that we owe ourselves to give an effort to it through education, investigation and research. That is what you have done here. Thank you for sharing it with us.
I've watched many documentaries about the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle and I have got to say this website was more detailed than the history channel. Based on the disappearances that have occurred at the Bermuda Triangle I am convinced that the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle is one mystery that will never be solved.
This page is awesome for finding information about the Bermuda Triangle for writing a report for school or just to plain learn about the Bermuda Triangle.