With a map of the Atlantic Ocean, and a ruler, almost anyone can outline the Bermuda Triangle. Starting at Miami, Florida, draw a line northeast to Bermuda. Then draw another line from Miami southeast to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Connect these lines with a third line and you are looking at an area of ocean where hundreds of people have met tragic, unexplained death. The Triangle of Death. The Magic Rhombus. The Limbo of the Lost. The Twilight Zone. The Port of Missing Ships. The Devil’s Triangle. The Hoodoo Sea. These and more are names given to the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. The Bermuda Triangle has a long and perilious history and can still send shivers through the bravest sailors and aviators.
However, the United States Board of Geographic Names doesn’t recognize the name Bermuda Triangle for that area of the Atlantic Ocean. Also, because it is part of a larger body of water, the Triangle does not have any “official” boundaries or markers. It does have “recognized” boundaries, like the explanation above, but there have been unexplained disappearances outside and near the “recognized” boundaries.
Stories of strange occurences and bizarre events of the Bermuda Triangle date back as far as 1492. Christopher Columbus was on his famous journey when he recorded seeing a fireball fly across the sky and land in the ocean, and he also wrote in his log that the ship’s compass was giving inaccurate readings and acting strangely. He didn’t tell his crew this for fear of frightening his crew. But then, on October 11, 1492, Columbus and a crewman saw a light over the water, but then it vanished quickly. Hours later, Columbus and his crew sighted the islands of the West Indies. Then the disappearances began. In 1609, the Sea Venture disappeared of the coast of Bermuda. A rescue boat was sent after it, but it disappeared as well. These were the earliest known disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. In 1750, three Spanish ships disappeared off the coast of North Carolina. In 1812, an American packet ship carrying Vice President Aaron Burr’s daughter disappeared in the Gulf Stream. In 1814, the U.S. warship Wasp vanished from the coast of South Carolina.
But not all ships vanished without a trace. In 1840, the French vessel Rosalie was found drifting in the Triangle. Everything on her was in place and untouched, but she was utterly abandoned. On December 4, 1872, the Dei Gratia found the Mary Celeste floating in the Atlantic. The people on the boat and one lifeboat were missing, but everything else, including personal belongings, were intact.
As the Twentieth Century rolled around, the disappearances increased. In 1902 the German vessel Freya was found in a region of the Triangle. It was listing on its side, part of its mast was damaged, and the crew were gone. In March 1918, the USS Cyclops left Barbados for Baltimore. When it was long overdue days later, a massive search was launched for it that continued for a month. It was never found, nor the crew of three hundred on board. It was the largest ship in the navy.
President Woodrow Wilson said, “Only God and the sea know what happened to the great ship.” In 1924, the Japanese freighter Raifucu Maru radioed for help, but rescue ships never found her. In 1941, the USS Cyclop’s two sister ships, Proteus and Neurus, both vanished while traveling from the Virgin Islands to the United States. In 1944, the Cuban freighter, the Rubicon, disappeared near the Triangle and then reappeared with only a half starved dog on board. Airplane travel became more common toward the mid-Twentieth Century, and flights were scheduled across the Atlantic. The most famous of all the Triangle disappearances took place in 1945. The mystery of Flight 19. On December 5, 1945, Flight 19 left the Fort Lauderdale navy air base in Florida on a routine training mission. It went well until the return flight. The patrol leader, Lieutenant Charles Taylor, began having strange difficulties. He radioed the base and said his compass was no longer working properly, and that he couldn’t figure out the flight’s current location and direction. He tried to navigate by landmarks, but it was getting dark. Then a storm set in. Communications with the base worsened, but they still remained in contact. Eventually they lost contact, and the navy dispatched several planes to search for Flight 19, including a Marting Mariner. The Mariner could fly for twelve hours, which made it perfect for a search. But the Mariner never returned, and neither did Flight 19. Ian Thorne said in his book Bermuda Triangle, “Flight 19 is one of the biggest mysteries of our time. How could five military planes, with a seasoned captain, lose their bearing. It was perfect weather out where they were flying, with good visibility and clear water. When Taylor reported in that the water didn’t look right and they didn’t know what was up or down, and all their instruments were not working properly, something must have happened that made all of the crew of the five planes disoriented. When the naval base was talking about sending out a rescue party while they were still in contact with Taylor’s squadron, and Taylor said, “Don’t send anyone after us.” Something otherworldly must have been happening.”(Bermuda Triangle Ian Thorp) In 1948, the airplane Star Tiger disappeared while en route to Bermuda, only moments after radioing ground crew they would arrive on schedule. In 1949, the Star Tiger’s sister plane, the Star Ariel, also vanished while traveling from Jamaica to Bermuda.
As with any bizarre situation, people want to find a logical explanation. Many theories for the disappearances come from scientists and are based on facts. Other theories are more imaginable. The most common theory is human error. After all, the Bermuda triangle includes such popular places as Miami and Bermuda. Many of the people who travel through there are on vacation and they may be partying and drunk or simply not paying attention to what their doing. This can lead to accidents which cause disappearances and death. Another theory is exaggeration. Some people say that all the bizarre disappearances probably were exaggerated through storytelling and adding layers to the story to make it more interesting. Another theory is compass variation. Normally a navigator has to consider the difference between the compasse’s north and true north. In the Bermuda Triangle, it is one of only two spots on the planet where magnetic north and true north are perfectly aligned. Normally the two measurements of north are off by as much as 20 degrees. This is known as compass variation, and compasses have to be adjusted to account for the difference. In the Bermuda Triangle, where magnetic north and true north actually match, navigators must remember not to compensate. If they automatically compensate for a variation that does not exist, they will wind up off course. In the middle of the ocean that miscalculation could be fatal. Weather is another factor to explain the disappearances. In the Triangle, severe storms can for without warning and
dissapate completely before reaching shore. The storms are usually too small for meteorologists to predict accurately. In severe weather the visibility could drop and and a pilot could literally dive into the ocean. Giant waves could be stirred up by the storms and could be large enough to engulf a ship and drag it under. Electricity generated by these storms could short out guidance systems and communications, leaving a ship or plane blind and powerless. The storm could then disappear as quickly as it appeared, and leave nothing but calm waters behind. Another theory is spatial disorientation. On a clear day a person can tell what is up or down. But if the person slowly tilts their head sideways and holds it their for a while, they will grow accustomed to it. If they then tilt their head back to normal they will experience a sudden disorientation, and that can happen vice versa.
Normally, this would not be a problem for pilots, as they have instruments to tell them altitude and angle, as well as visual cues. But if it were dark or stormy, the dark sky would blend the water with the horizon, so a person would not know where the horizon was. If the instruments got fried by electricity or a person wasn’t believing what their instruments were telling them, that could mean the plane could be flying straight into the ocean. Another explanation is that pockets of methane gas are released from the ocean floor. Methane gas causes water in that area to become less dense, the water loses its buoyancy, and if a ship was over a large amount of methane, it would lose its buoyancy and sonk quickly. Scientists say that the Triangle is high in natural methane hydrates, and that means at any time gas could be released.
The Bermuda Triangle has been a magnet for imagination for years. People propose that aliens abduct everyone in the Triangle. Stories of UFOs and strange sightings over the Triangle have been recorded for centuries. Some claim that the lost city of Atlantis lies in the Atlantic under the Bermuda Triangle and that crystals from the lost city mess up the engines and instruments of planes and ships. Others claim that the Bermuda Triangle is the source of black holes, which appear and disappear at random and suck up the occasional ship or plane. Still others think that the Triangle is the Gates of Hell. They say that those lost in it are now damned to Hell.
Are any of the logical theories correct? Are any of the illogical theories correct? Is their some sort of force field set up by some government to protect a secret project? It is anyone’s guess to the explanation of the Triangle. New theories are formulated everyday, and old ones are discarded. Maybe someday one of them will be proven correct. Until then, The Bermuda Triangle will remain one of the world’s strangest and most bizarre mysteries.
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