Compass Variation & Bermuda Triangle

 
Compass variation has been one of the popular explanations for missing ships and planes in Bermuda Triangle. 
 
So what is compass variation? A compass always points to the magnetic North, while the absolute geographic North which is known as the North Pole is located at Greenland. And these two are not the same location. They are away by about 1,500 miles. Many of us believe that if we keep following the 'N' sign of a compass, we will reach the absolute north (i.e. the north pole). That's wrong. If we do that, we will actually end up reaching Prince of Wales Island in the Northwest Territories of Canada, which is about 1,500 miles away from the North Pole. 
 
 
 
The angular gap in degrees between the absolute geographic North and the magnetic North is known as the compass variation. And at any point in time this gap depends on one's physical position on earth. For example, from Azores the angular gap between the absolute North pole and where the compass actually points is 20 degrees. Whereas from coast of Florida, there is hardly any gap. 
 
So what does Compass Variation got to do with Bermuda Triangle and the disappearances of ships and planes? 
 
Well, the US Coast guards came out with some strange observations and a theory for such disappearances around this compass variation. Here is an extract from what the US coast guard communicated: 
 
"The majority of disappearances can be attributed to the area's unique environmental features. First, the 'Devil's Triangle' is one of the two places on earth that a magnetic compass does point towards true north. Normally it points toward magnetic north. The difference between the two is known as compass variation. The amount of variation changes by as much as 20 degrees as one circumnavigates the earth. If this compass variation or error is not compensated for, a navigator could find himself far off course and in deep trouble." 
 
Well, I think the above statement is quite misleading. First, the compass always points to the magnetic North. It does so even within the Bermuda Triangle area and does not point anywhere else. However, it is true that if a ship moves along a specific narrow strip within Bermuda Triangle, the magnetic North and the absolute geographic North come into the same line. Which means the compass on this narrow strip will point to both magnetic as well as absolute North because both fall along the same line. 
 
 
 
Why does this happen? Imagine two dots on a piece of paper, join the two dots with a straight line and extend the line. From any point on the extension, the two dots will always be seen on the same line with no gap between them. The narrow strip on Bermuda triangle is similar to the extension of the line from where magnetic north and absolute north are seen on one line. The compass variation, which is the gap between absolute and magnetic north, will show as zero here. There is nothing strange about this. 
 
Second, as a matter of norm, every navigator factors in the compass variation while creating the navigation charts. Otherwise, even with one degree difference, the ship or the plane can end up miles away from its target when it traverses a long distance. 
 
So there was no reason to underestimate the navigators, who are supposed to consider the compass variation anyway as a matter of practice. And such practice prevails all over the world. So accidents or loss can happen all over the world and not just in Bermuda Triangle, if such compass adjustments are not done. 
 
Third, there were so many pilots and captains who had been old hands and had a vast knowledge of the area and the environment, but still had fallen pray to Bermuda Triangle's unknown forces. Compass or not, they knew their places at their finger tips. So how did those cases of disappearances take place? 
 
Well when you analyze all these, the theory of compass variation to justify ships and planes getting lost in Bermuda triangle seems to be a weak justification. Probably the US Coast Guards had to come out with some theory under tremendous pressures from the US Government and International community. They had to somehow justify or find some reasons behind so may cases of disappearances taking place. 
 
 
 
Related Articles 
 
1) Check out Bermuda Triangle Theories that try to explain the major disappearances. 
 
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