triangle.GIF (10926 bytes)
Net Research By Sadia Hanif
Source BlindKat

Introduction: Okay Let me tell you right off that the Bermuda Triangle is a myth that started off as old-time stories that sailors used to tell new ship mates to give 'em the heebie-jeebies. Now let me go on to say that the myths have become a great money making scam by people who like to stretch the truth. With that said, let me add I love the stories of the Bermuda Triangle and I love the way many FICTION writers have used the Bermuda Triangle as a premise for several fascinating STORIES.
The Purpose of this page is an attack on the pseudo-scientific publications that try to turn the Triangle into some mystical place that is a warp in the fabric of time or some kind of UFO landing spot. While some people will believe that stuff no matter what they read, this page is an attempt to explain away the myths and get to facts that created them. Let the fiction writers have their fun, let the pseudo-scientist with his half-baked facts.
What this page will explain is why currents in the area around the triangle can be dangerous, how a ship or plane can be lost without a trace, why many of the occurrences that are truly a mystery can not be attributed to the triangle, and why
some of the so-called mysteries are no more than over-active imaginations.

First Known use of the Bermuda Triangle

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 2d edition, the first recorded use of the term "Bermuda Triangle" or "Devil's Triangle" was in February, 1964 in an article appearing in Argosy. The article, The Deadly Bermuda Triangle, by V. Gaddis can be attributed to all the hype and craziness centered around the mythical Bermuda Triangle.

For those not familiar with Argosy, maybe its subtitle will give you a clue about what it publishes:

Argosy : Magazine of Masterpiece Fiction.

It has also gone by the name:
The Argosy: A Magazine of Tales, Travels, Essays, and Poems.

Obviously not a major source for nautical research but definitely a place to spin a tale or two.


The Dimensions of the Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle covers approximately 500,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean.
The official dimmensions (if you can call them that) claim the triangle is that area between Bermuda, San Juan Puerto Rico, and Miami Florida. However when you start plotting ocean disasters that are attributed to the Triangle its boundaries shift all over the North Atlantic and sometimes into the Eastern Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. See the Mary
Celeste and the Sargasso Sea

The Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream

The currents throughout the Bermuda Triangle are affected by the warm Gulf Stream. This current flows in a north easterly direction from the tip of Florida, up the Eastern seaboard to The Saint Lawrence Seaway and then roughly across the Atlantic toward the United Kingdom. The current divides the Cold waters of the North Atlantic from the hot water of the Sargasso Sea. The current accounts for the London fog as well as the temperate climate of Europe. Much of Europe is as far north as Canada, yet the climate tends to be more moderate, all because of this Gulf Stream.
The current is strong and small boats in the area that are not familiar with it (the Snow Birds and other Vacationers as well as new sailors) can easily be pushed off-course. The reason is that the current is continuously pushing the boat north and east of Florida and the Bahamas. In the area of the Florida straits (the narrow channel separating Florida and the Bahamas) the current is always swift, turbulent and traveling almost straight north! Debris form ships that have sunk in the Straights of Florida (as well as notes in bottles, and pollution) have been found all the way on the other side of the
Atlantic because of the force that this current possesses.

What this means: Boats go into the area an assume they are traveling in an easterly direction when in fact they are traveling east-north east. If the boat is going a short distance the problem can be corrected by simply watching the shoreline or other familair landmarks. If the boat is going a long distance the landmarks become lost beyond the
horizon. To further exaberate the problem the further the boat goes out the more off course it becomes.
To make matter worse, when the boat turns around and heads due west on its return route, it is still being pushed northeast. Anyone who has tried to paddle a canoe upstream realizes that it takes longer to go upstream than down stream. The same is true when fighting the Gulf Stream. Furthermore the current is still pushing you north so even if you compensate for the outward motion of the gulf stream you can still wind up several miles north of your destination unless you are a very good sailor.
To compound the problem, the Captain of the craft will probably "May Day" where he should be according to the route he thought he took, without making any compensation for the drift of the Gulf Stream, complicating any Search-and-Rescue mission.


The Ocean Floor
The North-American Continental Shelf explains the wonderful blue water of the Caribbean. In many places throughout the Caribbean Islands when flying over the shelf it is possible to see large objects submerged several feet under the water. It's a splendid sight and it would make it seem that finding a lost plane submerged in these parts quite easy, especially in this day of Black Boxes (Flight Data Recorders, Cockpit Voice Recorders and Emergency Locator Transmitter).
While the Big Jets have all sorts of tracking gear, Small Aircraft only have the Emergency Lacator Transmitter Unfortunately, the Black boxes don't work very well when they are submerged. Also, when the sandy bottom of the ocean floor is disturbed it can often cause the sand to lift up into a cloud and resettle on top of whatever disturbed it. To make matters worse, if a boat has capsized it may go completely unnoticed by all but the most sophisticated sonar equipment.
But these are only minor perils when it comes to searching for sunken craft in the Triangle. The real peril is that while many people have snorkeled in the wonderful shallow areas of the Caribbean, few have gone just a few miles away from these shallow areas where the continental shelf gives way to the ocean floor! Suddenly, within a matter of miles, what was once water only a couple hundred feet deep begins an ocean thousands of feet deep. About 100 miles north of Puerto Rico is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean: the Puerto Rico Trench, estimated at 30,100 ft (9200 meters) deep. The Florida Straits, between Miami and the Bahamas at around 5,000 or so feet deep. This is the shallow water where so many planes and boats have disappeared with out a trace. The 120 mile distance between the Grand Bahamas from New Providence lies the North East Providence Channel which has a depth of ranging between 6,000 and 12,000 feet (2,000-4,000 meters).
The Channel is at the tip of the basin which spreads out covering much of the ocean floor from Miami and the Bahamas out to Bermuda. This basin is ap proximately 18,000 feet (6,000 meters) deep. Contrary to the Bermuda triangle legend, the water of the islands is quite deep and turbulent.

The North Pole.
This information is currently a rough estimate. However, the information is critical to understanding some of the reports of strange compass readings in the triangle. As more information is made available to me, I will update this information. There are three north poles, Magnetic, Grid, and True or Celestial North. True North True north is determined by Polaris, the North Star. It can be found using the Ursa Major (Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor (Little Dipper). To find it, line up the two stars at the end of the dipper and draw an imaginary line out to the last star in Ursa Minor. This is Polaris. Grid North is the real North Pole, at 90 degrees latitude. It is the North Pole according to maps and globes. Because Polaris is not directly above Grid North, the two sometimes differ.


Magnetic North
Magnetic North is where compasses point and is several thousand miles from the Grid North. It is located somewhere north of one of the Baffin Islands in the Hudson Bay. If you look at most globes, you can find a little (x) with the label(Magnetic North) marking this location.
This is the answer to many of the strange compass readings that have been discussed when crossing the Atlantic. Columbus was one of the first Navigators to recognize that True North and Magnetic North were not the same thing, and he noted this in his log. He also surmised, correctly, 500 years ago, that the compass must point to something other than the North Pole.
There are only two longitudes in the world where Magnetic and Grid, or Magnetic, and True North align. These location are near the center of Europe and near the eastern part of the United States.
At the tip of Portugal the difference between Magnetic and Grid North is about four degrees. As you travel west across the Atlantic, the difference between Magnetic and Grid North begins to increase. This difference can get as much as 22 degrees. This increase continues until you reach the middle of the Atlantic and the Sargasso Sea, and then slowly Grid and Magnetic begin to realign so that by the time you reach the southern tip of Florida the two are only one and a half degrees different. To get an idea of how Grid, True, and Magnetic Norths differ, go to any large library with a good
map collection and ask to see the USGS 1:24,000 maps for your home town, a map for Washington State, New York State, and Kansas. On the bottom of the map will be a small diagram showing the differences between the three Norths.

History Lesson
Christopher Columbus
Three items are usually mentioned about Columbus and the Bermuda Triangle: the strange occurrence in the SargassoSea, the way his compasses acted up, and the strange lights he saw in the Indies.
First let's point out that Columbus was an excellent sailor and Captain, and despite several discussions of mutinies, none were attempted. His crew trusted his abilities. The main concern of his crew was the lack of land and the thought of running out of food and water on the journey. They had no idea how long they would be at sea, other than the
calculations of the Earth's circumference, according to Columbus.
There were two different circumferences of the Earth believed at this time. These estimates existed from as early as ancient Egypt. The basic way the circumference was figured out was by measuring the distance to the horizon from two different elevations (sea level and another height), and then using basic geometry determining the curvature of the circle.
No one with any education truly believed the earth was flat. Columbus believed the Earth to be about 15,000 miles in circumference; the shore of Asia should be reachable across the Atlantic. Most navigators used 25,000 miles, and believed the trip was impossible simply because it wasn't possible to carry provisions for such a long trip.

Furthermoe most Sailors liked to sail close to land in order to pick up provisions and fresh water. The open sea wasfeared and respected because of stormy weather conditions.
As Columbus went further out to sea, he ran into the Sargasso. The sea was a puzzle to him mainly because of the number of sea birds in the area; while usually a sign of land, no land was in sight. This was a major disappointment to Columbus and his crew and he made a special note of it for future voyages. (More as warning to future travelers not to
expect land fall than because of alien visitors.)
Later, as he went further west into the Atlantic, he noticed that the compass needle was acting up: the compass' North was not lining up with True (Celestial) North. Again he made a note of it, but didn't tell his superstitious crew. When others noticed the difference, Columbus informed them that he had made note of it, but it was not a major problem. He reasoned that the compass probably pointed to something other than True North. This, of course, has been proven to be true. Magnetic North is currently near Prince of Wales Island, half way between the Hudson Bay and the Geographic North Pole. Columbus and crew also spotted a meteor hitting the water. The crew was not puzzled by it, however, as it was not that uncommon to see shooting stars and the like. The meteor was noted in Columbus' log mainly because of the size. This occurred outside the boundaries of the Triangle. Columbus also logged a report of seeing lights in the distance, on October 11. He called for one of his men, who alsosaw the light. When a third man finally came, the light had vanished. By this time, the crew, while not mutinous, was calling for the ship to turn around. Columbus wrote that if land fall was
not made within f ew days, he would turn around. There was a reward for the first man to spot land and several bad sightings were made. There were visible signs, such as land birds or plants floating in the water, but no land was sighted. On several occasions, low clouds had been mistaken for land. Columbus issued an order that any false sighting would lead to a forfeiture of reward, because of the effect they were having on the crew.
The light Columbus had seen on the night of Oct 11 was probably from Man Island near Hispanola or from Hispanola itself. He failed to wake the crew because he did not want to report yet another false sighting. Four hours later, Rodrigo de Triana, aboard the Pinta, signaled land-in-sight. Land was spotted in the vicinity of where the light had been seen.

The Occurrences: The Myths & Facts
The Biggest Mystery, Flight 19

Flight 19. The disappearance of Five Avenger Torpedo bombers.

The Myth.

On a clear day five Navy Avengers of flight 19 took off for a routine mission. The experienced crew had a route that would take them 160 miles east, 40 miles north and the 120 miles straight back to base. The planes were suppose to carry three man crews, but one crew member failed to show. Perhaps it was just coincidence, or was it premonition?

The planes had done their required preflight test and every thing 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. The first message that came from the patrol came in 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." The tower said "Head due west", but the flight did not know which way West was. "Everything looks wrong, even the ocean looks strange". The tower was puzzled; even if the compasses were not working, the crew should have been able to fly west by following the sun (which was several hours from setting). Finally around 16:25, the flight leader announced "We're not certain where we are. We must be 225 North east of base...it looks like we are..." and then silence. 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. The search for the planes continued for weeks, and even today the U.S. Navy has a standing order for crews to keep a look out for Flight 19. The military experts were completely baffled--how could 27 men and six planes just disappear? If the Avengers would have 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"


The truth:
Fact 1: Only the Patrol Leader Lt . Charles Taylor was an experienced pilot, and he had only recently been transferred to the US Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale. The other pilots, and all but one crew member were trainees.
Fact 2: The patrol was to conduct a low-level bo mbing mission at Hens and Chickens Shoal south of the Grand Bahamas. Lt. Taylor tried to get out of doing the flight, most likely because he was hung over.( He had been at a party
the night before.) No one else in the duty rotation felt like switching with him.
Fact 3: Soon after taking off, Taylor's compass went out, but he decided to fly by "dead reckoning" and "Pilotage".
Fact 4: Taylor got screwed up because of his dead reckoning flying. He was not wearing a watch (something that has been assumed because he was always asking his crew what time it was). After several minutes of flying in circles, he saw a land mark that he thought he recognized. Taylor lived in the Florida Keys, and he mistakenly identified an island of the Bahamas as the island he lived on. He then issued an order for the flight to fly due North until they hit the mainland of Florida. It was getting late and the weather had been getting progressively worse. After about an hour of flying north and not hitting the mainland, Taylor issued an order to fly east. He assumed that they were now over the Gulf of Mexico.
In fact, the flight had been flying north along the Atlantic coastline. When they decided to fly east, they started heading farther out into the Atlantic ocean.
Fact 5: Flight 19 was in continuous contact with Base throughout the flight, up to this time, and the tower was aware that Taylor was flying without a compass. They asked Taylor to switch over to the emergency radio channel, but Taylor refused because one of his planes had a faulty receiver and he was afraid that if he changed frequencies he would lose contact with the plane. The weather was now a major storm; visibility was poor.
Fact 6: Because of Taylor's refusal to switch to the emergency channel, Fort Lauderdale was picking up a lot of static on the line. It was also hard for the other radio stations along the coast to get a good fix on Flight 19. If Taylor had switched to the emergency channel, a fix could have been made almost immediately.
Fact 7: It was raining: the weather was not clear and the sun could not be seen.
Fact 8: A fix was made on the planes which put them around three hundred miles east of Jacksonville, Florida. When Taylor had thought he was lost, he was actually on course. If one were to back-track his flight plan from the point of where he thought he was lost, you will end up just South of the Bahamas.
Fact 9: Several of the crew members were heard informing Taylor that if they headed West, they'd hit Florida. Because of their adherence to military discipline, they followed their leader.
Fact 10: Fort Lauderdale sent vseveral messages to Flight 19. The flight was unable to receive the messages because of their distance from Lauderdale and all the interference from other radio traffic. If Taylor had switched to the emergency channel several other station could have contacted him. The other coastal stations id not have the
frequencies necessary to contact Taylor's group.
Fact 11: The Mariner was not the only plane dispatched to search for Flight 19. It was the only one that blew up, almost on take off. The explosion was witnessed by several people and an oil slick and debris were found. The Mariners was notorious for having fuel leaks and were known as "flying gas tanks"; it exploded 23 minutes after take
off, in the exact location were it should have been.
Fact 12: Avengers may float for up to two minutes, if you're lucky, make a perfect water landing, and the sea is calm. You might be able to get out of the plane if the sea is calm, you are uninjured from the crash (you don't land an Avenger like you would a sea-plane) and there is light. Ditching in the sea is dangerous even under ideal conditions. Flight 19 was flying in a rainstorm at night, over rough seas, with pilots who had no experience at ditching a plane; they were students. The planes would have sunk like rocks if they ran out of fuel and had to ditch. It is doubtful from the last few
radio messages, that the planes decided to ditch together.
Fact 13: It is common practice, upon the termination of any naval search, to conclude by stating that travelers in the area should remain on the alert. This order is never cancelled because it is part of termination orders. The Navy is not expecting to find Flight 19.
Fact 14: The planes had flown far enough out to sea to have placed them off of the Continental Shelf. They were no longer flying over the shallow Caribbean water, but over water thousands instead of hundreds of feet deep. It is difficult to find sunken debris in such deep water.
You decide. Is this a good story to tell around the camp fire or this a mystery that remains unsolved?
for some reason people are always asking for photos of Flight 19. I don't have any. Here is the stock U.S. Navy photo of Avenger aircraft that appear in almost every book that mentions Flight 19.


The Mary Celeste
The Bermuda Triangle wouldn't be complete without a story on the Mary Celeste. It was a 103 foot Brigatine displacing 282 tons. It was found, floating and completely abandoned, by the crew of the Dei Gratia on December 4, 1872. Both ships had taken on cargo in New York the previous month. The Mary Celeste was sailing for Genoa on November 7, and the Dei Gratia was to head-out a week later for Gibraltar. The Dei
Gratia sighted the ship sailing erratically. When the Captain went to investigate, he found that the only life boat had been launched, yet the ship was in perfect shape, with sails set. Numerous stories about the Celeste abound; the stories cover everything from bloody swords under the Captain's bed to strange vortices sucking off the crew, to an underground world.
The Facts
Fact 1: The ship was never in the Triangle. Its course was well north of the Triangle and it was found drifting by the Dei Gratia between the Azores and Portugal.
Fact 2: The ship had taken on some water and the Dei Gratia had run into several winter storms on the way across the Atlantic. It is reasonable to assume the same of the Mary Celeste. Most likely the crew launched the life boat, fearing
the ship would sink and then were probably lost at sea in the life boat. It wouldn't be the first or last time that a ship was abandoned in rough water only NOT to sink.
Fact 3: Did I mention that this didn't even happen in the Bermuda Triangle. Several of the incidents claimed of the Triangle occurred somewhere else in the world, some as far away as the Indian Ocean.

The disappearance of NC-16002. DC-3. December, 1948

It was December 27, 1948. A commercial flight from San Juan Puerto Rico to Miami Florida was returning with a plane load of, you guessed it, Snow Birds. The pilot, Captain Robert Lindquist, radioed Miami. They were fifty miles out and requesting landing instructions, or so the story goes. Miami radioed back with the instructions but got no reply. The plane which was just full of happy people singing Christmas Carols, vanished
from the sky, never to be seen again.
The plane was not experiencing any radio troubles, and the pilot had made visual contact with Miami Tower but then just vanished. The weather was clear and calm, and the pilot and copilot both seasoned veterans No sight of the plane wreckage was seen in the water south of Miami where the pilot had last radioed his position.
Surely the wreckage of a plane would be seen in shallow water only twenty feet deep.

Fact 1: The plane's batteries would not hold a charge, and the pilot left San Juan even though the ground crew said he should replace them. The plane had been having difficulties with the radio ever since it had left Miami earlier in the morning. Since then, the DC3 had flown to San Juan and was now making the return trip to Miami. In all, the plane had been flying for close to twenty hours with the same crew and a radio that worked only intermittently, at best.
Fact 2: The Florida Straits have water close to 5,000 feet deep; the current is swift and deep. If the plane had gonedown in the vicinity of where they claimed to have been, they would have crashed in water which is neither still nor shallo w. The current would have had over three hours to disperse debris before any search party had started.
Fact 3: The pilot gave an estimate of where he thought he was. The transcripts of the flight messages have no mention of seeing Miami. He was giving an estimate based on his flight time, speed, and weather conditions. Pilots are often as much as fifty miles off when reporting these distances. This means he could have been between fifty and one hundred miles away from Miami. The pilot said he was due South, yet if he was on course, he should have been east-southeast of Miami.
Fact 4: The wind direction had changed since the pilot had taken off. The new wind direction would have caused the plane to drift further to the West by as much as fifty miles, if he was not aware of it. Most likely he was not aware of it, because he was out of radio contact. He could transmit but it was not known if he could receive, because he never responded to any message (including those from San Juan at take off). This means he could have missed the entire southern tip of Florida and flown off only to crash in the Gulf Of Mexico.
Fact 5: While the pilot had flown for sometime with other airlines in the area, this was his maiden flight for with this airline. The copilot was also new to the route.