A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE
Limbo of the
Lost, The Twilight Zone, Hoodoo Sea, The devil’s Triangle. The vast
three-sided segment of the Atlantic Ocean bordered by Bermuda, Puerto
Rico and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, did not receive its famous nickname
until 1964, but reports of bizarre happenings there, or nearby, have
been recorded for centuries. In fact, many claim that Christopher
Columbus bore witness to the Bermuda Triangle’s weirdness. As the
Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria sailed through the area in 1492, it
is reported that Columbus’s compass went haywire and he and his crew
saw weird lights in the sky, but these events have mundane explanations.
From the account in Columbus’s journal, it is thought that the
compass’s slight inaccuracy stemmed from nothing more than the
discrepancy between true north and magnetic north. As for the lights,
Columbus wrote of seeing “a great flame of fire” that crashed into
the ocean—probably a meteor. He saw lights in the sky again on October
11, which of course, was the day before his famous landing. The lights,
brief flashes near the horizon, were spotted in the area were dry land
turned put to be.
historical event retroactively attributed to the Bermuda Triangle is the
discovery of the Mary Celeste. The vessel was found abandoned on
the high seas in 1892, about 400 miles off its intended course from New
York to Genoa. There was no sign of its crew of ten or what happened to
them. Since the lifeboat was also missing, it is quite possible that
they abandoned the Mary Celeste during a storm that they wrongly
guessed the ship could not weather. But what makes it even harder to
call this a Bermuda Triangle mystery is that the ship was nowhere near
the Triangle—it was found off the coast of Portugal.
Triangle legend really began in earnest on December 5, 1945, with the
famed disappearance of Flight 19. Five Navy Avenger bombers mysteriously
vanished while on a routine training mission, as did a rescue plane sent
to search for them—six aircraft and 27 men, gone without a trace. Or
so the story goes.
When all the
facts are laid out, the tale of Flight 29 becomes far less puzzling. All
of the crewmen of the five Avengers were inexperienced trainees, with
the exception of their patrol leader, Lt. Charles Taylor. Taylor was
perhaps not at the height of his abilities that day, as some reports
indicate that he had a hangover and failed in his attempts to pass of
flight duty to someone else. With the four rookie pilots entirely
dependent on his guidance, Taylor found his compass malfunctioned soon
into the flight. Taylor chose to continue the run on dead reckoning,
navigating by sighting landmarks below. Being familiar with the islands
of the Florida Keys, where he lived, Taylor had reason to feel confident
in flying by sight. But visibility became poor due to a brewing storm,
and he quickly became disoriented.
Flight 19 was
still in radio contact with the Fort Lauderdale air base, although the
weather and a bad receiver in one of the Avengers made communications
very spotty. They may have been guided safely home if Taylor had
switched to an emergency frequency with less radio traffic, but he
refused for fear they would be unable to reestablish contact under these
conditions. Taylor ended up thinking they were over the Gulf of Mexico,
and ordered the patrol east in search of land. But in reality, they had
been heading up the Atlantic coastline, and Taylor was mistakenly
leading his hapless trainees much further out to sea. Radio recordings
indicate that some of them suggested to Taylor that Florida was actually
to the west.
A search party
was dispatched, which included the Martin Mariner that many claim
disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle along with Flight 19. While it is
true that it never returned, the Mariner did not vanish; it blew uo 23
seconds after takeoff, in an explosion that was witnessed by several in
the base. This was unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence, because
Mariners were known for their faulty gas tanks.
wreckage from Flight 19 has ever been recovered. One plausible
explanation is that Taylor led the planes so far out to into the
Atlantic that they were past the continental shelf. There the ocean
abruptly drops from a few hundred feet deep to a several thousand feet
deep. Planes and ships that sink to such depths are seldom seen again.
The deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean, the 30,100-foot-deep Puerto
Rico trench, lies within the Bermuda Triangle.
circumstances of the failing compass, the difficulty of radio
transmissions, and the absence of wreckage, tales of mysterious
intervention befalling Flight 19 began to take form. Theories involving
strange magnetic fields, time warps, Atlantis, and alien abduction began
to appear. Even an official Navy report intimated that the Avengers had
disappeared “as if they had flown to Mars”.
prior and subsequent incidents have been attributed to the inherent
strangeness of the area, which was forever christened the Bermuda
Triangle by writer V.Gaddis in a 1964 issue of “Argosy”, a fiction
magazine. Public interest in the “phenomenon” was whipped into a
frenzy by Charles Berlitz’s 1974 bestseller “The Bermuda
Triangle”, a sensationalized and thoroughly inaccurate account that
shunned the facts in favor of mysterious excitement.
There are two
major obstacles to taking the Bermuda Triangle legend seriously. The
first is that most of the associated mishaps can be explained by
rational means. The second is that most of the associated mishaps did
not occur within the Bermuda Triangle. If you plot all the alleged
instances of the area’s malevolent influence on a map, you find that
only a handful have actually happened within the triangle’s borders.
Sea disasters as distant as Portugal, Ireland and the Pacific and Indian
Oceans have been blamed on the Bermuda Triangle. We might just as well
rename it as “The Worldwide Curse of All Seas”. Some have turned
this fact on its head by proposing that the Devil’s Triangle is
expanding in scope.
respond that it is evidence that accidents will happen – no matter
where exactly on the land, on the sea or in the air they take place.
Back to The Triangle- Myths.