Bermuda Triangle

From Academic Kids

Map of Bermuda Triangle
Map of Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is a 1.5 million square mile area of ocean roughly defined by Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the southern tip of Florida. It is supposedly a paranormal site in which the laws of physics are violated or altered.

It is said that within this area a number of ships and planes have disappeared under highly unusual circumstances. The United States Coast Guard and others disagree with the assessment of paranormal activity, arguing that the number of incidents involving ships and planes are no larger than any other heavily traveled region of the world.

Another area that is classified by many as having the same paranormal effects is the Devil's Triangle, located near Japan.

Contents

History of the Bermuda Triangle

First citations

The first mention of any disappearances in the area was made in 1950 by E.V.W. Jones as a sidebar on the Associated Press wire service regarding recent ship losses in the area. Jones' article notes the "mysterious disappearances" of ships, planes and small boats in the region, and ascribes it the name "The Devil's Sea." It was mentioned again in 1952 in a Fate Magazine article by George X. Sand, who outlined several "strange marine disappearances". The term "Bermuda Triangle" was popularized by Vincent Gaddis in a 1964 Argosy feature.

Popularized by Berlitz

The area achieved its fame largely through the efforts of Charles Berlitz in his 1974 book The Bermuda Triangle. The book consists of a series of recountings of mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft, in particular, the loss of a squadron of five U.S. Navy aircraft (see below).

The book was a best-seller, and many interested readers offered theories to explain the nature of the disappearances. The list includes natural storms, transportation by extraterrestrial technology, high traffic volumes (and correspondingly high accident rates), a "temporal hole," the lost Atlantis empire from the bottom of the ocean, and other natural and supernatural causes.

Skeptical responses

Critics have charged that Berlitz, and others have exaggerated the "mysterious" aspects of some cases (Berlitz himself did not advocate any supernatural explanation), and argue that the Bermuda Triangle sees no more "disappearances" than any comparable area of the oceans. Of note, Lloyd's of London has determined the "triangle" to be no more dangerous than any other piece of the ocean, and does not charge unusual rates of insurance for passage through the area. Coast Guard records confirm this.

Skeptics comment that the disappearance of a train between two stops would be more convincing evidence of paranormal activity, and the fact that such things do not occur suggests that paranormal explanations are not needed to explain the disappearance of ships and airplanes in the far less predictable open ocean.

Kusche's research

Intrigued by the number of students coming to him looking for information about the Bermuda Triangle, Lawrence Kusche, a reference librarian with Arizona State University at the time of the "Flight 19" incident, began an exhaustive follow-up investigation of the original reports. His findings were eventually published in 1975 as The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved.

Kusche's research revealed a number of inconsistencies between Berlitz's accounts and statements from eyewitnesses, participants, and others involved in the initial incidents. He noted cases where pertinent but late-arriving information went unreported. The Berlitz book included the disappearance of round-the-world yachtsman Donald Crowhurst as a mystery, despite clear evidence that Crowhurst had fabricated the accounts of his voyage, and that his diary strongly suggested he had committed suicide. An ore carrier Berlitz recounts as lost without trace three days out of an Atlantic port was actually lost three days out of a port of the same name in the Pacific Ocean. Kusche argues that a large percentage of the incidents attributed to the Bermuda triangle's mysterious influence actually occurred well outside it,

Kusche came to several conclusions:

  • With this area being one of the busiest shipping areas in the world, the proportion of losses was no greater than anywhere else.
  • In an area with frequent tropical storms, the total disappearance of some ships was not unlikely or mysterious, and the number of such disappearances was exaggerated by sloppy research, when a missing boat would be reported in the press, but not its eventual return to port.
  • In actual disappearances, the circumstances were frequently misreported in the Bermuda Triangle books: the number of ships disappearing in supposedly still, calm weather did not jibe with press weather reports published at the time.

While Kusche's analysis provides a skeptical counterbalance to Berlitz's book, we can still expect to see books and websites devoted to uncovering the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle.

Methane hydrates

An explanation for some of the disappearances focuses on the presence of vast fields of methane hydrates on the continental shelves. A paper was published by the United States Geological Survey about the appearance of hydrates in the Blake Ridge area, offshore southeastern United States, in 1981 [1] (http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/project-pages/hydrates/usgspubs.html). Periodic methane eruptions are capable of producing ship-sized bubbles, or regions of water with so much dissolved gas, that the water density is no longer capable of providing adequate buoyancy for ships to float. [2] (http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/10/22/1066631498889.html?from=storyrhs). If this were the case, such an area forming around a ship could, hypothetically, cause it to sink almost directly and without warning. The effects of such eruptions are also consistent with reports which include accounts of mists, foamy water, changes in ship buoyancy, and extensive oil slicks.

The Skeptic's Dictionary (http://skepdic.com/bermuda.html) refers to the methane gas hypothesis as "oceanic flatulence."

A geologist from the USGS states (http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/project-pages/hydrates/bermuda.html) that although it is possible for a gas release to cause a ship to sink, he does not believe this has resulted in sinking of ships in the Bermuda Triangle.

However, recent research from Cardiff University on deep-sea bacteria, which may play a role in the formation of methane hydrates, may result in a better explanation of the phenomenon of explosive instability in the water and resultant disasters [3] (http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/newsevents/14382.html).

Freak Waves

Research has shown that freak waves up to 30 m (100 feet) tall, capable of sinking the largest ships within moments, can and do happen. Although these are very rare, in some areas ocean currents mean they happen more often than the norm. Such waves have now been hypothesised as a cause for many unexplained shipping losses over the years. (Main article: Freak waves)

Famous incidents

Flight 19

One of the best known Bermuda Triangle incidents concerns the loss of Flight 19, a squadron of five Navy Avenger TBM torpedo bombers on a training flight out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 5, 1945. According to Berlitz, the flight consisted of expert Marine Corps aviators who, after reporting a number of odd visual effects, simply disappeared. Furthermore, Berlitz claims that because the TBM Avenger bombers were built to float for long periods, they should have been found the next day considering what were reported as calm seas and a clear sky. However, not only were they never found, a Navy search and rescue plane that went after them was also lost. Adding to the intrigue is that the Navy's report of the accident was ascribed to "causes or reasons unknown."

While the basic facts of Berlitz's version of the story are essentially accurate, some important details are missing. Flight 19 set out from Ft. Lauderdale at 2:10 in the afternoon. The flight was a training mission: all but the commander were students. Evidently, the flight's commander, Lt. Charles Taylor, became confused early on in the flight. In a radio call, Taylor indicated his compasses were not working and he believed they were flying over a small group of islands they assumed were the Florida Keys, implying that they were well off course and far to the west of where they should have been. A later re-creation showed that the islands in question were probably their bombing target, well east of the Keys. The commander, thinking he was on a heading toward Florida, guided the flight further north. Meanwhile the weather worsened and radio contact became more intermittent.

The squadron was in fact well out to sea east of the Florida peninsula. At 5:50 their position was fixed off the coast of central Florida, but the pilots could not be reached to give them this information. A Catalina flying boat was immediately dispatched to help guide the planes back, and two more planes joined the search later. In the meantime, darkness had fallen, and the weather had worsened. The last radio contact from Flight 19 was heard at 7:04, at which time the planes were low on fuel. There would be no choice but to ditch their planes into the rough ocean when fuel ran out; the pilots had agreed they would all ditch together when one of the planes ran out of fuel.

The search for Flight 19 survivors continued all night and the next day to no avail. This was not a surprise, however; the bombers were not likely to withstand a landing in a rough sea. The search plane that was lost was one of two Martin Mariners sent to the search zone. The Mariner, which had a reputation as a "flying bomb" or "flying gas tank" almost certainly exploded in mid flight. The crew of a freighter witnessed a midair explosion and passed through what they thought was an oil slick and floating airplane wreckage in the vicinity, although none of it was recovered. Little doubt remains, however, as to the fate of the missing search plane. The other Mariner arrived at the search zone as scheduled.

The image of a squadron of experienced fliers disappearing on a sunny afternoon is not accurate. Rather, it was a squadron of students forced to crash land into unknown stormy waters in the dark of night. As for the Navy's report, it is claimed that the original report blamed the accident on the commander's confusion, but the wording was changed in deference to the wishes of his family.

It is worth mentioning that the Bermuda Triangle does still hold a mystery concerning Flight 19—what actually became of the planes. In 1991 the wreckage of five Avengers was discovered off the coast of Florida. At the time of the discovery nearly everyone assumed that the planes were the Flight 19 squadron, but it was found later that the serial numbers on the engine blocks did not match. In 1986, the wreckage of another Avenger was found off the Florida coast during the search for the wreckage of the space shuttle Challenger. In 1990, an aviation archeologist named Jon Myer located and raised this wreck from the ocean floor. He was convinced it was one of the missing planes; however, positive identification could not be made. As late as 1992, another expedition located scattered debris on the ocean floor that could also have come from an Avenger.

See also

External links

Further reading

  • The Bermuda Triangle, Charles Berlitz (ISBN 0385041144): appears to be currently out of print; however, there are many other books available covering the same material, frequently the same stories.
  • The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved, Lawrence David Kusche (ISBN 0879759712)ca:Triangle de les Bermudes

da:Bermudatrekanten de:Bermudadreieck es:Triángulo de las Bermudas et:Bermuda kolmnurk fr:Triangle des Bermudes he:משולש ברמודה nl:Bermudadriehoek ja:バミューダトライアングル fi:Bermudan kolmio zh:百慕大三角

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