of the Bermuda Triangle
A section of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by Bermuda, Puerto
Rico and the east coast of Florida.
A area where an abnormally large number of planes and
Statistics show the the number of sunken ships and crashed
planes in this area is not more than would be expected
given the large amount of traffic.
Case: USS Cyclops a US Navy coal ship disappeared
Case: Flight 19: Five US Navy torpedo bombers got lost
and went down at sea on December 5, 1945 ( photo above).
Case: SS Marine Sulfur Queen, a commercial tanker,
disappeared in 1963.
Case: NC16002 a DC-3 airliner disappeared on December
The Bermuda Triangle
(sometimes also referred to as the Devil's Triangle) is a stretch
of the Atlantic Ocean bordered by a line from Florida to the
islands of Bermuda, to Puerto Rico and then back to Florida.
It is one of the biggest mysteries of our time - that perhaps
isn't really a mystery.
The term "Bermuda
Triangle" was first used in an article written by Vincent H.
Gaddis for Argosy magazine in 1964. In the article, Gaddis claimed
that in this strange sea a number of ships and planes had disappeared
without explanation. Gaddis wasn't the first one to come to
this conclusion, either. As early as 1952, George X. Sands,
in a report in Fate magazine, noted what seemed like an unusually
large number of strange accidents in that region.
In 1969 John Wallace
Spencer wrote a book called Limbo of the Lost specifically about
the Triangle and, two years later, a feature documentary on
the subject, The Devil's Triangle, was released. These, along
with the bestseller The Bermuda Triangle, published in 1974,
permanently registered the legend of the "Hoodoo Sea" within
Why do ships and
planes seem to go missing in the region? Some authors suggested
it may be due to a strange magnetic anomaly that affects compass
readings (in fact they claim Columbus noted this when he sailed
through the area in 1492). Others theorize that methane eruptions
from the ocean floor may suddenly be turning the sea into a
froth that can't support a ship's weight so it sinks (though
there is no evidence of this type of thing happening in the
Triangle for the past 15,000 years). Several books have gone
as far as conjecturing that the disappearances are due to an
intelligent, technologically advanced race living in space or
under the sea.
In 1975 Larry Kusche,
a librarian at Arizona State University, reached a totally different
conclusion. Kusche decided to investigate the claims made by
these articles and books. What he found he published in his
own book entitled The Bermuda Triangle Mystery-Solved. Kusche
had carefully dug into records other writers had neglected.
He found that many of the strange accidents were not so strange
after all. Often a Triangle writer had noted a ship or plane
had disappeared in "calms seas" when the record showed a raging
storm had been in progress. Others said ships had "mysteriously
vanished" when their remains had actually been found and the
cause of their sinking explained. In one case a ship listed
missing in the Triangle actually had disappeared in the Pacific
Ocean some 3,000 miles away! The author had confused the name
of the Pacific port the ship had left with a city of the same
name on the Atlantic coast.
a check of Lloyd's of London's accident records by the editor
of Fate in 1975 showed that the Trianglewas no more dangerous
than any other part of the ocean. U.S. Coast Guard records confirmed
this and since that time no good arguments have ever been made
to refute those statistics. So many argue that the Bermuda Triangle
mystery has disappeared, in the same way many of its supposed
Even though the Bermuda
Triangle isn't a true mystery, this region of the sea certainly
has had its share of marine tragedy. This region is one of the
heaviest traveled areas of ocean in the world. Both small boats
and commercial ships ply its waters along with airliners, military
aircraft and private planes as they come to and from both the
islands and more distant ports in Europe, South America and
Africa. The weather in this region can make traveling hazardous
also. The summer brings hurricanes while the warm waters of
the Gulf Stream promote sudden storms. With this much activity
in a relatively small region it isn't surprising that a large
number of accidents occur. Some of the ones commonly connected
to the Triangle story are:
The USS Cyclops
One of the first
stories connected to the Triangle legend and the most famous
ship lost in the region was the USS Cyclops which disappeared
in 1918. The 542 foot long Cyclops was launched in 1910 and
served as a collier ( a ship that carries coal) for the U.S.
Navy during World War I. The vessel was on its way from Bahia,
Salvador, to Baltimore, Maryland, but never arrived. After it
had made an unscheduled stop at Barbados on March 3rd and 4th
to take on additional supplies, it disappeared without a trace.
No wreckage from the ship was ever found and no distress signal
was received. The deaths of the 306 crew and passengers of the
USS Cyclops remains the single largest loss of life in U.S.
Naval history not directly involving combat.
While the sinking
of the Cyclops remains a mystery, the incident could have happened
anywhere between Barbados and Baltimore, not necessarily in
the Bermuda Triangle. Proponents of the Bermuda Triangle theory
point to the lack of a distress call as evidence of a paranormal
end for the vessel, but the truth is that wireless communications
in 1918 were unreliable and it would not have been unusual for
a rapidly-sinking vessel to not have had a chance to send a
successful distress call before going under.
SS Marine Sulphur
The SS Marine
Sulphur Queen, a tanker ship carrying molten sulphur, disappeared
off the southern coast of Florida in 1963. The crew of 39 was
all lost and no wreckage from the tanker was ever found. While
the disappearance of the ship is mentioned in several books
about the Triangle, authors don't always include that the Coast
Guard concluded that the vessel was in deplorable shape and
should have never gone to sea at all. Fires erupted with regularity
on the ship. Also, this class of vessel was known to have a
"weak back", which means the keel would split when weakened
by corrosion causing the ship to break in two. The ship's structure
had been further compromised by a conversion from its original
mission as an oil tanker to carrying molten sulphur. The conversion
had left the vessel with an extremely high center of gravity,
increasing the chance that it would capsize. The SS Marine Sulphur
Queen was all-in-all a disaster waiting to happen and it seems
unfair to blame its demise on the Bermuda Triangle.
NC16002 was a DC-3
passenger plane that vanished on the night of December 28, 1948,
during a flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Miami, Florida.
The weather was fine with high visibility and the flight was,
according to the pilot, within 50 miles of Miami when it disappeared
with its three crew members and twenty-nine passengers. Though
no probable cause for the loss was determined by the official
investigation, it is known that the plane's batteries were not
fully charged on takeoff and this may have interfered with communications
during the flight. A message from Miami to the plane that the
direction of the wind had changed may have not been received
by the pilot, causing him to fly up to fifty miles off course.
The Fate of Flight
Fate of Flight 19
The tale of Flight
19 started on December 5th, 1945. Five Avenger torpedo bombers
lifted into the air from the Naval Air Station at Fort Lauderdale,
Florida, at 2:10 in the afternoon. It was a routine practice
mission and the flight was composed of all students except for
the Commander, a Lt. Charles Taylor.
The mission called
for Taylor and his group of 13 men to fly due east 56 miles
to Hens and Chicken Shoals to conduct practice bombing runs.
When they had completed that objective, the flight plan called
for them to fly an additional 67 miles east, and then turn north
for 73 miles and finally straight back to base, a distance of
120 miles. This course would take them on a triangular path
over the sea.
About an hour and
a half after the flight had left, Lt. Robert Cox at the base
picked up a radio transmission from Taylor. Taylor indicated
that his compasses were not working, but he believed himself
to be somewhere over the Florida Keys (the Keys are a long chain
of islands south of the Florida mainland). Cox urged him to
fly north toward Miami; if Taylor was sure the flight was over
Planes today have
a number of ways that they can check their current position
including listening to a set of GPS (Global Positioning Satellites)
in orbit around the earth. It is almost impossible for a pilot
to get lost if he has the right equipment and uses it properly.
In 1945, though, planes flying over water had to depend on knowing
their starting point, how long and fast they had flown, and
in what direction. If a pilot made a mistake with any of these
figures, he was lost. Over the ocean there were no landmarks
to set him right.
had become confused at some point in the flight. He was an experienced
pilot, but hadn't spent a lot of time flying east toward the
Bahamas which was where he was going on that day. For some reason
Taylor apparently thought the flight had started out in the
wrong direction and had headed south toward the Keys, instead
of east. This thought was to color his decisions throughout
the rest of the flight with deadly results.
The more Taylor took
his flight north to try to get out of the Keys, the further
out to sea the Avengers actually traveled. As time went on,
snatches of transmissions were picked up on the mainland indicating
the other Flight 19 pilots were trying to get Taylor to change
course. "If we would just fly west," one student told another,
"we would get home." He was right
By 4:45 P.M. it was
obvious to the people on the ground that Taylor was hopelessly
lost. He was urged to turn control of the flight over to one
of his students, but apparently he didn't. As it grew dark,
communications deteriorated. From the few words that did get
through it was apparent Taylor was still flying north and east,
the wrong direction.
At 5:50 P.M. the
ComGulf Sea Frontier Evaluation Center managed get a fix on
Flight 19's weakening signals. It was apparently east of New
Smyrna Beach, Florida. By then communications were so poor that
this information could not be passed to the lost planes.
At 6:20 a Dumbo
flying boat was dispatched to try and find Flight 19 and guide
it back. Within the hour two more planes, Martin Mariners, joined
the search. Hope was rapidly fading for Flight 19 by then. The
weather was getting rough and the Avengers were very low on
Two Martin Mariners
were supposed to rendezvous at the search zone. The second one,
designated Training 49, never showed up, joining the 5 Avengers
The last transmission
from Flight 19 was heard at 7:04 P.M. Planes searched the area
through the night and the next day. There was no sign of the
Nor did the authorities
really expect to find much. The Avengers, crashing when their
fuel was exhausted, would have been sent to the bottom in seconds
by the 50 foot waves of the storm. As one of Taylor's colleagues
noted, "...they didn't call those planes 'Iron Birds' for nothing.
They weighed 14,000 pounds empty. So when they ditched, they
went down pretty fast."
What happened to
the missing Martin Mariner? Well, the crew of the SS Gaines
Mill observed an explosion over the water shortly after the
Mariner had taken off. They headed toward the site and there
they saw what looked like oil and airplane debris floating on
the surface. None of it was recovered because of the bad weather,
but there seems little doubt this was the remains of the Mariner.
The plane had a reputation as being a "flying bomb" which would
burst into flame from even a single, small spark. Speculation
is that one of 22 men on board, unaware that the unpressurized
cabin contained gas fumes, lit a cigarette, causing the explosion.
become the Triangle's "Lost Squadron"
So how did this tragedy
turn into a Bermuda Triangle mystery? The Navy's original investigation
concluded the accident had been caused by Taylor's navigational
confusion. According to those that knew him he was a good pilot,
but often navigated "flying by the seat of his pants" and had
gotten lost in the past. Taylor's mother refused to accept that
and finally got the Navy to change the report to read that the
disaster was for "causes or reasons unknown." This may have
spared the woman's feelings, but blurred the actual facts.
The saga of Flight
19 is probably the most repeated story about the Bermuda Triangle.
Vincent Gaddis put the tale into the same Argosy magazine article
where he coined the term "Bermuda Triangle" in 1964 and thetwo
have been connected ever since. The planes and their pilots
even found their way into the science fiction film classic,
Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Where is Flight 19
now? Well, in 1991 five Avengers were found in 750 feet of water
off the coast of Florida by the salvage ship Deep Sea. Examination
of the plane's ID numbers, however, showed that they were not
from Flight 19 (as many as 139 Avengers were thought to have
gone into the water off the coast of Florida during the war).
It seems the final resting place of the lost squadron and their
crews is still a real Bermuda Triangle mystery.
Copyright Lee Krystek, 2013.