Mystery Casefile: The Bermuda Triangle
In one of the most highly traveled seaways in the Western Atlantic lays an area of ocean surrounded by stories of mysterious disappearances, UFO sightings, magnetic anomalies and even time warps. This area is known as the Bermuda Triangle.
While not popularly called the "Bermuda Triangle" until 1964, this section of sea between Miami, FL, Bermuda and Puerto Rico forms a rough triangle shape that is said to be a hot spot for a variety of high strangeness and paranormal phenomena. Reports of strange disappearances date back to the mid-18th Century, but even further back we have record during Christopher Columbus' journey where in 1492 he witnessed strange lights in the sky while traversing the ocean. One of these lights may well have been a meteor, but he also made note of erratic compass readings while sailing through the area now known as the Bermuda Triangle.
In modern times however, there have been a reported 50 ships and 20 aircraft consumed by this expanse of high strangeness. Curiously, there have been cases where it seems the Triangle might throw some of its catch back as some ships have been found intact, but with a missing crew. There are also cases of ships and planes that have sent distress signals, never to be heard from again. Entire search parties looking for missing vessels have themselves gone missing as well, which I'll cover later.
There are a few notable incidents that occurred in this treacherous stretch of water. During WWI, the US Navy cargo ship, USS Cyclops disappeared after departing Barbados en route to Brazil. This was the largest loss of life of a navy ship ever that was non combat related, and some think the Triangle was responsible for its disappearance. Some theories suggest that storms sunk the ship, while others thought enemy activity from a German U-Boat may have been the culprit. Further still, the ship was carrying a full load of manganese ore with only one engine, leading some to believe a catastrophic series of events could have caused the vessel to be swallowed by the sea.
The most famous account of a mass disappearance in the Triangle is that of Flight-19. On December 5th, 1945, five navy Avenger bombers took off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a training mission over the Atlantic. there were 14 men piloting these planes and within 5 hours, the whole squadron vanished without a trace and are now known as The Lost Squadron.
Lt. Charles Taylor was assigned to command Flight-19 and was certainly qualified to lead the training mission with over 2500 hours as a naval aviator and having a cool and calm demeanor. Right before the mission began, Taylor strangely requested to be removed from the flight and was quoted as saying he didn't feel up to it, but being the only instructor at the base, his request was denied. The first leg of the mission went off without a hitch and the trainee pilots completed their bomb run simulation, but thats when things took a turn for the strange.
At that point, Lt. Taylor's compass began to malfunction. radioing to the trainees, he asked what their readings were - 330 degrees, but Taylor was convinced they were lost and flying over the Florida keys and Gulf of Mexico, when they should have been over the Atlantic. However, Taylor made a fatal mistake and some researchers believe they were positioned near the Abaco Islands in the west Atlantic, some 300 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Taylor ordered the squadron to head east, surely they would spot the mainland, but instead it is believed the navigational confusion sent them further out to sea. by sunset, the weather was worsening and the final radio contact the base had heard from the squadron was:
"If we just headed west, we’d get home. Dammit, if we’d just head west, we’d get home."
At this point, fuel was running low and it's assumed the 5 planes and their crews crashed into the ocean.Tragically one of the planes that was sent out to search for the missing airmen also became lost to the sea. Thirteen additional men lost their lives that day. Interestingly a wreck of a Grumman TBF avenger just 30 miles off the mainland coast of Florida and recovered decades later under 400 feet of water, though it was not conclusive if it was from Flight-19 or not.
While there are several other cases of missing ships and planes, one particularly interesting case is that of Bruce Gernon. one day This certified flight instructor, while flying in the area experienced high strangeness first-hand and lived to tell the tale. What Gernon experienced ties into the time warp theory of the Triangle and involved what he dubbed as "electronic fog."
In 1970, Gernon claimed he was flying from Andros Airport, Bahamas to palm beach, Florida - a 250 mile trip which typically takes 75 minutes. After experiencing flying through patch of strange clouds, Gernon arrived in Florida in only 35 minutes, suggesting that some force propelled him forward in time.
Gernon believes the "electronic Fog" is a meteorological phenomenon and thinks it could be the explanation for many of the disappearances over the years. according to Gernon, during the flight he spotted an odd cloud ahead drawing close at 11,500 feet and it could be dangerous to fly through. Despite trying to fly the plan over it, he noticed a new cloud was forming behind the plane and in front of him a tunnel was forming. In short order, the plane was trapped with no escape. Once encompassed, a spiraling vortex developed within rotating counter-clockwise.
At that point the navigational equipment on board started going haywire and visibility was reduced to a nothingness of gray fog. No ocean, or land was visible at all. Within a few minutes, Gernon was able to make contact with ATC operators, but they could not find his plane on radar. After several more minutes they finally spotted him and confirmed his location over Miami beach, when he should have still been en route, not making it to his destination 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Gernon landed with extra fuel which further confirmed something strange had just occurred.
This time-warp theory is one of the more interesting and weird explanations out there. Meteorology professor David Pares believes that certain electrical activity from thunderstorms could ionize the air in such a way to affect Gernons plane to knock out his on board instruments and potentially introduce energies to warp space time. Certain authors over the years have leaned towards paranormal explanations for many of the disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. Some, like Charles Berlitz looked towards the mythical Atlantis as an explanation with its ancient energies causing havoc with anything that moves over the area whether it is by sea or air. The reasoning behind this is the fact that the infamous Bimini Road is within the Triangle and many believe it could be evidence of the legendary submerged civilization.
Then there is the UFO explanation. One of the earliest claims of alien activity was in the 1955 book, 'The Case for the UFO' by M.K. Jessup due to no bodies and wreckage being discovered from lost and missing planes and ships. Some believe that extraterrestrials have made a habit of snatching up planes mid-flight. there is a well-documented account of a UFO sighting in 1971 where the craft was hovering over the USS John F. Kennedy while it was in the Bermuda Triangle. Skeptics believe some explanations behind the mysteries of this region are far more down to earth. One of the biggest explanations for craft going missing is simply due to human error. Reports of magnetic anomalies are also apparently unsubstantiated, or there hasn't been any evidence of them yet, but this doesn't explain the malfunctioning compasses and magnetometers aboard aircraft and boats.
Other conventional explanations point to bad weather, as the area the Bermuda Triangle is in is right in the path of many hurricanes and tropical storms. Any boat or plane that gets stuck out at sea in that could certainly vanish without a trace. Another interesting scientific theories is the release of methane hydrates from the seafloor. It is known that there are large fields of this natural gas on continental shelves which periodically erupt. The bubbles from this in experiments was shown to decrease the buoyancy of boats causing them to sink and even being able to affect a planes ability to stay in the air.
What do you think of the Bermuda Triangle? There is certainly a lot of history of high strangeness in this part of the world, but experts and skeptics will say there's no higher occurrence of strange activity compared with the rest of the worlds oceans. With all the theories and explanations its hard to know which is the most likely. My bet is on a combination of a few of them. I do know this though, is that I would not want to be caught on a plane or ship in this part of the world and then have things go sideways.