Bermuda Triangle Essay, Research Paper
The Bermuda Triangle
Is the Bermuda Triangle really a place where strange powers are at work? The Bermuda Triangle is a very complex and mystifying area that is noted for a high incidence of unexplained losses of ships, small boats, and aircraft. From reading this paper one will learn geographic features of the Bermuda Triangle, famous disappearances, and possible explanations for them.
There is a section of the western Atlantic, off the southeast coast of the United States, forming what has been termed a triangle. It extends from Bermuda in the north to southern Florida, and then west to a point through the Bahamas past Puerto Rico to about 40* west latitude, and then back again to Bermuda (Gaffron 14). This area occupies a disturbing and almost unbelievable place in the world s catalogue of unexplainable mysteries. In the Bermuda Triangle more than 100 planes and ships have literally vanished into thin air, most of them since 1945. More than 1,000 lives have been lost in the past twenty-six years, without a single body or even a piece of wreckage from the vanishing planes or ships having been found. Disappearances continue to occur with apparently increasing frequency, in spite of the fact that the seaways and airways are today more traveled, searches are more thorough, and records are more carefully kept (Berlitz 1).
During the past century more than 50 ships and 20 aircraft sailed into oblivion in the area known as the Bermuda Triangle. Exactly what happened to the ships and aircraft is unknown. Most disappeared without a trace. Few distress calls and little, if any, debris signaled their disappearance (Baumann 44).
Ships and Planes Disappeared in the Last Century
1900-1919 1920-1939 1940-1959 1960-1979 1980-1999 Total
Ships 13 11 13 14 12 63
Planes 6 5 8 4 5 28
Total 19 16 21 18 17 91
On a clear day, December 5, 1945, five Navy Avengers of Flight 19 took off for a routine mission. The experienced crew had a routine that would take them 160 miles east, 40 miles north, and then 120 miles straight back to base (Cusack 10). The planes were suppose to carry three man crews, but one crew member failed to show. The planes had done their required preflight test and everything checked out in good working order. It was a routine two hour mission but the planes were still fully fueled. The planes had extensive radio equipment to include ten different radio channels and homing devices that would show them the way home (Cusack 9-10). The first message came in from the patrol at 15:45: “Control tower this is an emergency. We seem to be off course. We seem to be lost. We can t make out where we are” (Berlitz 15). The tower said “Head due west,” but the flight did not know which way west was. “Everything looks wrong, even the ocean looks strange” (Berlitz 15). The tower was puzzled; even if the compasses were not working, the crew should have been able to fly west by following the sun. A few minutes later the radio went dead. A Martin Mariner flight-boat with a crew of 13 took off to look for Flight 19. The Mariner sent several routine messages back to base before it, too, disappeared in the region where Flight 19 was thought to be. At 19:04 the last message from Flight 19 was received at base. It was only a faint message, which repeated the letters FT FT, the call letters of Flight 19 (Berlitz 16). The military experts were baffled, how could 27 men and six planes just disappear? If the Avengers had run out of fuel, the planes would have floated long enough for the crews to get out and onto their rafts. The men were well trained in sea survival. The official Navy report stated that the planes had vanished “as if they had flown to Mars.” (Baumann 5-6).
Another mysterious disappearance that baffles researchers is that of the SS Marine Sulphur Queen. Bound for Norfolk, Virginia from Beaumont, Texas, the tanker was last heard from on February 3, 1963, when she routinely radioed her position. The message placed her near Key West in the Florida Straits. Three days later, Coast Guard searchers found a solitary life jacket bobbing in a calm sea 40 miles southwest of the tankers last known position. Another sign of the tanker or her 39-man crew has never been found (Cusack 36-37). The absence of bodies might be explained by the fact that the waters are infested with sharks and barracuda. As for the tanker, she was carrying 15,000 long tons of molten sulphur contained in four metal tanks, each heated to 275 degrees Fahrenheit by a network of coils connected to two boilers. No one knows for sure whether she blew up, but it is a possibility. If gas escaped from the tanks and poisoned the crew, the radio officer may have not had enough time to send a distress call before being overcome. The slightest spark could have set the leaking sulphur afire in an instant (Berlitz 56-57).
One of the most celebrated stories of the Devil s Triangle is that of the SS Cyclops. The navy supply ship disappeared on a clear day in March 1918, during World War I. The Cyclops was a steamship, 542 feet long, one of the largest vessels afloat. Twenty-four hours after she left the West Indies bound for Norfolk, Virginia everything went dead (Berlitz 46).
Since this was wartime, the first theory to explain this disappearance was that the ship had been torpedoed. But the Germans usually announced the destruction of large ships. No such announcement was made for the Cyclops (Baumann 67).
Another possibility is that German-born Lt. Commander George Worley, captain of the lost ship, could have surrendered it to the Germans. But a search of the records proved this theory false. Researchers say that Worley could never have dodged the British and American blockading patrols (Baumann 68).
Countless theories attempting to explain the many disappearances have been offered throughout the history of the area. The most practical seem to be environmental and those citing human error. The majority of disappearances can be attributed to the areas unique environmental features. First, the “Devil s Triangle” is one of the two places on the earth that a magnetic compass does point true north, normally it points toward the magnetic north. The difference between the two is known as compass variation. The amount of variation changes by as much as 20 degrees as one circumnavigates the earth. If this compass variation or error is not compensated for, a navigator could find himself far off course and in deep trouble (Gaffron 47).
Another environmental factor is the character of the Gulf Stream. It is extremely swift and turbulent and can quickly erase any evidence of a disaster. The unpredictable Caribbean-Atlantic weather pattern also plays its role (Berlitz 79). Sudden local thunder storms and water spouts often spell disaster for pilots and mariners. Finally, the topography of the ocean floor varies from extensive shoals around the islands to some of the deepest marine trenches in the world. With the interaction of the strong currents over the many reefs, the topography is in a state of constant flux and development of new navigational hazards is swift and unpredictable (Cusack 56).
Quite a few scientists base their conclusions of the Bermuda triangle disappearances on supernatural events. Some believe that UFO s have come and dropped a device or machine in this area that causes compasses to spin, radios to go dead, and ships to sink. They believe that extraterrestrial civilizations might want to capture humans in order to study them and possibly use them as slaves (Gaffron 84).
Another bazaar explanation is that of time eddies. Other scientists believe that time does not always travel in a straight line, but that parts of it occasionally break off and head away from the main flow, carrying with them whatever might happen to be in the area. These lost vessels and their occupants might be trapped in a parallel universe. Like the eddies found in ocean currents, these time eddies would strike suddenly and unpredictably (Gaffron 74).
Taken one at a time, logical explanations can be found for most of the disappearances. Many deny that there is a great mystery in the Bermuda Triangle. But where is the Cyclops? Why wasn t even a scrap of metal found from Flight 19? Until these and many more questions are answered, the mystery remains.
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Berlitz, Charles. The Bermuda Triangle. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc.,
Cusack, Michael J. Is There a Bermuda Triangle?: Science and Sea Mysteries. New York:
Julian Messner, 1976.
Gaffron, Norma. The Bermuda Triangle: Opposing Viewpoints. St. Paul, MN: Greenhaven
Press, Inc., 1988.