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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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"
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
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
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
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
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.
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.