The Bermuda Triangle: A Manufactured
(also known as the Devil's Triangle) is an area of the Atlantic Ocean
that is formed by drawing imaginary lines from Miami to the Bermuda
Islands, from the Bermuda Islands to Puerto Rico, and from Puerto Rico
back to Miami.
of the Bermuda
Triangle claim that this area of the Atlantic has an unusually high
incidence of maritime and air disasters that indicate the presence
(depending on who you care to believe) of hostile aliens, Atlantian
crystals, or extra dimensional vortices.
purpose of this essay
is to examine the evidence with the view to determining the veracity of
alleged mystery of
the Bermuda Triangle began with an Associated Press dispatch
(16/09/1950) in which reporter E.V.W. Jones wrote of ships and planes
mysteriously vanishing between the Florida coast and Bermuda. Fate
magazine then published an article in 1952, in which George X. Sand
made similar claims.
mysterious disappearances in the Atlantic had been created, it wasn't
long before other people began to expand upon the idea. For example, in
his book The Case for the UFO, M.K. Jessup suggested that
aliens were responsible, a view echoed in The Flying Saucer
Conspiracy (1955) by Donald E Keyhoe and Stranger than Science,
by Frank Edwards.
forces were at work was given additional impetus by Vincent Gaddis,
creator of the term "Bermuda Triangle", whose article The Deadly
Bermuda Triangle appeared in Argosy (February, 1964), much of
which was published later as The Triangle of Death in chapter 13 of his
book Invisible Horizons: True Mysteries of the Sea (1965). This
account was followed by John Wallace Spencer's book Limbo of the
Lost (1969). However, probably Charles Berlitz's bestseller The
Bermuda Triangle (1974) provided the greatest publicity for the
claims of Triangle proponents.
given a brief
outline of the development of the idea that the Bermuda Triangle is a
place of mysterious happenings, I shall now examine the evidence to see
if it supports the assumption that strange forces are at work.
the most well
known piece of so called evidence (and apparently the basis for Jones'
1950 dispatch) is the disappearance of Flight 19 — a group of five
Avenger torpedo bombers that vanished on the 5/12/1945 during a routine
practice mission, and that of a Martin Mariner aircraft (Training 49)
during the subsequent search for the lost planes.
doubts the reality
of this tragedy, however, was it due to the operation of mysterious
forces, or is a more prosaic explanation likely?
Investigation into the disaster arrived at two basic conclusions
concerning the cause of Flight 19's disappearance:
Equipment Failure — Flight Leader Lt. Charles Taylor's compass
failed, a fact established by Lt. Robert Cox through radio
communication with Lt. Taylor (the other Avengers were not equipped
with working navigational equipment).
Human Error — Lt. Taylor became disorientated, thinking that some
islands he sighted indicated he was in the Florida Keys (as it turned
out, he was in the Bahamas), and flew north thus heading further out to
remember that in 1945 there were no Global Positioning Satellites. In
order for a pilot to know where he was, it was essential for him to
know his starting point, how long and how fast he had flown, and in
what direction. Without a working compass Lt. Taylor and his trainees
were in serious trouble, and this was compounded by the fact that
Taylor, although an experienced pilot, was not totally familiar with
the Bahamas, the direction Flight 19 was to take.
aircraft were sent
out, however, no one had a clear idea of exactly where Flight 19 was
(ComGulf Sea Frontier Evaluation Center calculated an approximate
position east of New Smyrna Beach, Florida). Furthermore, rescue
efforts were also hampered by bad weather and radio interference caused
by atmospheric conditions. Tragically, the Avengers ran out of fuel,
crashed into rough seas and, at 14,000 pounds empty, would have gone
straight to the bottom.
it has often
been claimed that in Lt. Taylor's radio transmissions he says words to
the effect that the ocean looks strange and that they (whoever "they"
are) look like they're from outer space. This is then claimed as
evidence that either the pilots of Flight 19 found themselves caught in
a dimensional vortex, or were abducted by aliens. Records of the radio
transmissions, however, show no such comments being made.
Martin Mariner: These aircraft had reputations as "flying bombs"
because their unpressurized cabins often contained gas fumes. The crew
of the SS Gaines Mill reported observing an explosion shortly after the
Mariner had taken off, and found what looked like aircraft debris in
the water at the site (bad weather prevented any from being recovered).
A reasonable conclusion is that a spark ignited fuel vapors and caused
a catastrophic onboard explosion.
other disappearances, such as those reported in Berlitz's The
Bermuda Triangle. Is this good evidence for their belief that
mysterious phenomena are at work? In 1975, Larry Kusche, a librarian at
Arizona State University began researching the claims made by Triangle
proponents, and published his own book on the subject: The Bermuda
Triangle Mystery — Solved. He discovered that hardly any serious
research had been conducted; rather, most authors on the subject simply
repeated the accounts of various incidents and uncritically reiterated
the unsupported speculations of others.
many claims that
a particular vessel had vanished in "calm seas" were shown to be false
— they had in fact been lost during a raging storm, and in other cases
the wreckage was discovered and the cause of the tragedy known,
refuting claims that the craft had "mysteriously vanished".
Furthermore, other serious researchers on the subject have shown that
many of the disasters occurred well outside the Triangle.
The Atlanta — The ship was on course for England when lost,
which means she was headed away from the Triangle.
The Bella — She was lost off the coast of Sao Roque, Brazil,
which is about 2,000 miles south of the Triangle.
The British York Transport — The aircraft was lost on a
flight between Azores and New Foundland in 1953. It would never have
entered the Triangle.
The Cyclops — Lost off the coast of New Jersey during a storm.
The Freya — The ship was never in the Atlantic Ocean. It went
down off the western coast of Mexico, which is in the Pacific Ocean.
The Globemaster Airplane — Went down off the coast of Ireland
The Raifuku Maru — Lost in a severe storm off the coast of
Manhattan Island, New York.
The Mary Celeste — Found abandoned near the Azores, a group
of islands in the North Atlantic that are nowhere near the Triangle.
The USS Scorpion Nuclear Submarine — Sank and found near the
accident records of Lloyd's of London do not support the idea that the
Bermuda Triangle deserves its notoriety as an exceptionally dangerous
doubts that the
ocean in the vicinity of the Bermuda Triangle can be treacherous, or
that ships and aircraft have come to grief in and around this area.
However, the US Coast Guard attributes these incidents to a combination
of environmental factors and human error:
Compass Variation — The area is one of two places (the other
is located off the east coast of Japan, and is called the "Devil's Sea"
by Japanese and Filipino sailors) where magnetic compasses point to
true north, rather than magnetic north. If a navigator does not account
for this compass variation, then he can end up far off course and in
The Gulf Stream — Being swift and turbulent, it can quickly
erase evidence that a disaster has occurred.
Unpredictable Weather — The Caribbean-Atlantic weather is
unpredictable by nature, with sudden local thunderstorms and water
spouts a very real danger for mariners and pilots.
Ocean Floor Topography — The emergence of new navigational
hazards is rapid due to the interaction of strong ocean currents with
the extensive shoals, deep marine trenches and the many reefs found in
Human Error — Many pleasure craft sail the waters between
Florida's Gold Coast and the Bahamas. It is not uncommon for journeys
to be undertaken in unsuitable craft by inexperienced sailors ignorant
of the area's hazards.
basis of the
available evidence it appears that the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle
is no mystery at all. Rather, belief that some unusual force is active
appears to have arisen through poor journalism that exaggerated
accounts of various disasters, and the willingness of people to
uncritically believe them.
course no one can
prove that aliens or remnants of Atlantis are not operating within the
Bermuda Triangle, nor can it be shown that there are no such things as
dimensional vortexes. However, the burden of proof rests with those who
make the claim that these or other exotic factors are responsible for
the various sea and air disasters. To date proponents of such
hypothesis have failed to present sound evidence in support of their
beliefs and, as a result, their views continue to remain unproven.
Castle of Spirits
Naval Historical Center
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