Covering a 500,000 square mile area of the Atlantic ocean, the Bermuda Triangle is an area that forms a triangle between three points; Miami, San Juan, and Bermuda. Many ships sailing through it, as well as planes going over it, have mysteriously disappeared without a trace. In some cases, the wrecks were found, but the crew had vanished completely. Over the past five centuries, more than 1,000 planes and ships have disappeared in the “Devil’s Triangle.”
The first mention of weird happenings in the Bermuda Triangle started with Christopher Columbus. In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed through the area on his first voyage to the new world, and he noted a great flame of fire crashed into the sea one night, and a strangle light appearing in the distance a few weeks later. He also mentioned erratic compass readings. While these can most likely be credited to a meteor, and a part of the Bermuda Triangle where north matches up to true north (which can throw off compass’). This was the first record of strange happenings in the Bermuda Triangle, which was only the beginning.
One of the most famous stories is “The ghost ship,” a.k.a, Mary Celeste. In October 1872, Mary Celeste was made ready to board in NY’s East River for a voyage to Italy. Benjamin Briggs, captain of the ship, along with his wife Sarah , their two year old, Sophia, and seven crew members departed on November 7th, 1872. After almost a month of her sail, on December 4th, 1872, a British vessel named Dei Gratia found Mary Celeste off the coast of Portugal, sailing erratically but at full sail. Once the crew members boarded, they found it abandoned, with it’s sail slightly damaged, several feet of water in the hold, and the life boat and navigational tools missing. However, the ship was in good order, with 6 months provisions of food and water on board. But there was not a single soul on board, and all of their personal belongings and valuables were untouched. The captain log showed that the Mary Celeste had been 500 miles from where it was found by the Dei Gratia.The people were never found.
While Mary Celeste is certainly one of the most popular Bermuda Triangle mysteries, reports of unexplained disappearances didn’t invoke the public attention until the 20th Century. In March 1918, the USS Cyclops, which was a 542-foot long Navy Cargo ship with 10,000 tons of manganese and 300 men on board, sank somewhere between Barbados and Chesapeake Bay. This garnered attention, especially when the information was released that the Cyclops never sent out a distress signal despite being able to do so, and when an extensive search was preformed, no wreckage was uncovered. “The incident remains the single largest non-combat loss of life in U.S. Navy history” (Sheposh, Joseph)
After this, a pattern began forming. On December 5th, 1945, Flight 19, consisting of five Navy bombers carrying 14 men, took off from the Navel base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in order to conduct practice
bombing runs. Led by Commander Charles Taylor, each plane was a three seater, very safe, and at the time the US Navy’s best bombing planes. At 2:10 pm, the five planes took off one after the other. It was a clear day. The plans detailed the planes flight path, which was supposed to cover a triangular area. At about 3:30, Taylor sent a message to the control tower that his compass was malfunctioning (similar to Christopher Columbus), and then at 3:45 Taylor’s voice was heard again at the control towers, sounding worried and confused that they couldn’t see land. At 5:50, the ComGulf center managed to trace the Flight 19 Avengers on its radar, but by then communications had become so poor there was no way to relay this information to the lost planes. The weather was becoming rough and the Avengers were very low on fuel, so at 7:27 pm two Martin Mariner planes were sent to search for the Flight 19 planes. Search continued all night and into the next day, but when it was time for the two search planes to meet at the decided spot, only one showed up. The second had disappeared, never to return again. After a week long search for both Flight 19 and the Martin Mariner didn’t turn up any evidence, The official Navy report declared that it was “as if they had flown to Mars.”
We know the first record of strange circumstances happened in 1492, with Christopher Columbus. But, what was the most recent? It was actually in 2015. On October 1st, the cargo ship SS El Faro left Jacksonville Florida, bound for Puerto Rico with 33 crew members on board. A tropical storm that was hundreds of miles away developed into a hurricane and circled around El Faro. Soon all communications from the ship went silent. A weeks-long search finally turned up, sitting upright in one piece at a depth of about 15,000 feet in the Atlantic. Tom Roth-Rory, the lead investigator for the NTSB, said, “There were no human remains found whatsoever, and no personal affects whatsoever. I think we found one boot.”
As the number of mysterious plane or ship disappearances grew, so did the number of theories explaining it. One is the methane gas theory. Large amounts of methane gas are known to exist below the ocean floor, trapped in the sediments in the form of methane hydrates. If the gas were to find its way out and start rising through the water, it could significantly reduce the density of the water in that particular area. This would mean any ships passing over such area would sink in no time, and such gas could also create explosions. However, the largest chunks of methane reserves are a distance away from the Bermuda triangle, and the possibility of a ship or plane being just over the area at the exact time is minuscule. It also doesn’t explain the lost ships and planes where the water depth was only at about 50 feet, or account for why they couldn’t locate shipwrecks in the area.
Another plausible theory is one about the Sargasso sea. It’s a strange area within the Bermuda triangle that has no shores, but is surrounded by ocean currents on all sides. This area is unusually warm in the middle of the cold waters of the Atlantic, and has a thick mat of seaweed accumulated on the surface. Because of the surrounding currents, a subtropical gyre is created, causing the seaweed to slowly rotate clock wise. There have been many cases where lost ships were found in the Sargasso sea, floating intact, with no people on board.
While there are a number of other theories to explain the Bermuda Triangle, ranging from quirky to logical. From pirates, to Atlantis, to waterspouts, to plain old human error. But one of the most convincing (and relevant) theories has to do with the unusual sea floor. The Atlantic ocean is a young ocean that grows everyday. Because the Mid-Atlantic ridge continues to expand with the movement of tectonic plates, some theorize that some of these mysterious disappearances could be linked to underwater volcanoes. From a gentle slope, the ocean bottom of the Bermuda Triangle takes a sudden deep drop. “Some of the deepest trenches in the world are found in this area.” The gulf stream that runs through the area is strong, and could easily carry away evidence of disaster.
Some chalk it up to the sensationalization by authors and people alike, while some will swear it’s something beyond science and reason. In 1975, Larry Kusche published a book titled, “The Bermuda Triangle Mystery- Solved,” in which the skeptic concluded that the number of incidents it to be expected in a place where tropical cyclones or hurricanes are quite common. He also showed that the number of incidents in the Bermuda Triangle is not significantly more compared to several other ocean areas. The U.S. Coast Guard agrees, saying, “No extraordinary factors have been identified.” No matter how much theorizing you do, there is no way to definitively know the truth about the many unusual disappearances of aircrafts and vessels within the Bermuda Triangle. In all probability, there is no single theory that fully solves the mystery, and there’s a possibility that it’s a mixture of a couple of things (both logical and supernatural, maybe?) but nothing short of a full search of the stretch of the ocean called the Bermuda Triangle would solve it.
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History.com Staff. “Bermuda Triangle.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Sheposh, Richard. “Bermuda Triangle.” Salem Press. Salem Press Encyclopedia, Jan. 2016. Web. Apr. 2017.
Staff. “Is The Bermuda Triangle Real Or A Myth?” The Bermuda Triangle. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
Staff, Tarik Minor News4Jax.com. “Expert: Video of sunken El Faro shows crew tried to escape.” WJXT. N.p., 04 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.