The Myth of the Bermuda Triangle

Bermuda Triangle

Map of the Bermuda Triangle

On December 5, 1945, the five torpedo bombers of US Navy Flight 19 disappeared on a routine navigation flight over the Bermuda Triangle. Navy investigators could not determine the cause of the loss of Flight 19 and thus, creating the myth of the Bermuda Triangle.

Flight 19

“Navigation Problem No. 1” was the last Advanced Combat Aircrew Training out of three, the pilots of Flight 19 had to accomplish in the area of Fort Lauderdale. The crew consisted of pilots with mixed experiences, one had over 2000 hours of flight experience with the Avenger, others only 300. The planes were supposed to stay in the air for about five hours and had to accomplish several bomb droppings and course changes during the training. At 3pm on 5 December, 1945, the ground crew received a message that the last bomb will be dropped just now and it was clear that the crew would return very soon. About an hour later, the training instructor Robert Fox heard his pilot’s conversations, saying that they were lost and could not find back to Fort Lauderdale, also their compass did not work correctly. Taylor, the pilot with the most experience took the lead to guide the crew home but also he noticed that his compass was broken, and right after he told the ground crew about the events, no further radio connection was accomplished. At about 5pm, the weather started to change and the conditions got even worse. One hour later, Flight 19’s position was finally determined and Taylor transmitted that they were going to ‘land’ on water due to fuel shortage. During a later rescue mission neither a pilot nor pieces of an aircraft were ever found.

Artist's depiction of the five TBM Avengers that disappeared <a title="User:Anynobody" href="">Image: Anynobody</a>

Artist’s depiction of the five TBM Avengers that disappeared
Image: Anynobody

Bermuda Triangle Myth

But Flight 19 was not the first incident in the area, already Christopher Columbus wrote about a misbehaving compass and his navigation difficulties. The term ‘Bermuda Triangle’ however, was coined by Vincent Gaddis in 1963 and the myth was born. In literature, many authors wrote about the “Devil’s Triangle” and it became rather unclear what stories were fictional and which actually happened. Still, the recorded stories did not really differ from each other. Ships and aircraft disappeared even though the weather was quite nice and no victims or remaining craft parts were found. Once, a completely undamaged ship was found on the bottom of the sea with no sign of the crew. Strange radio conversations were recorded and soon, theories of abductions by extraterrestrial or by citizens of the lost city of Atlantis evolved.

Worldwide distribution of confirmed or inferred offshore gas hydrate-bearing sediments

Worldwide distribution of confirmed or inferred offshore gas hydrate-bearing sediments

In 1948, a passenger aircraft disappeared on its way from Puetro Rico to Miami. It is recorded that the pilot thought to be right ahead of Miami which he transmitted over radio but the plane never reached the airport and not a single passenger was found. Another ship with a crew of almost 40 men disappeared in the 1960s and only small pieces, mostly personal items of the crew were found. As further stories evolved and the public attention grew, several scientists began observing the myth around the Bermuda Triangle. Scientists from the United States, Germany and Japan found a significant amount of methane gases. When suddenly small seaquakes occur, a so called methane blowout may appear that could be responsible for the sinking of many ships in the area, because due to the millions of tiny methane bubbles that rise to the water’s surface during and after a blowout, a ship’s buoyancy is hindered. This would also explain the weird behavior of a compass in this area and is probably the most credible theory on this day. But many scientists make journalists, who were hungry for sensations responsible for the myths. It is assumed that several events were falsely interpreted and that journalists exaggerated certain facts intentionally.

Further Potential Explanations

  • White water
    This phenomenon is often observed in the area of the Bahama Banks. Atlantis researcher J. Manson Valentine and pilot Jim Richardson are said to have landed in the middle of this white water in a seaplane to take samples. The analysis reportedly revealed particular chemical peculiarities, suggesting that crevices in the seabed were leaking some substances and volcanic activity. Among other things, unusually high concentrations of sulphur were found, but traces of strontium and lithium were also found.
  • Electromagnetic fields
    Another theory is based on the effect of electromagnetic waves on the electronic navigation aids on board. This could, however, mainly play a role in recent accidents, as electronic navigation aids are a fairly new invention. The airplanes of flight 19, for example, had no electronic navigation aids on board.
  • Magnetic anomalies
    In connection with the Bermuda Triangle, anomalies of the earth’s magnetic field are often mentioned. Either the compass should fail completely or rotate, making it impossible to determine its position. This phenomenon should occur in ships as well as in airplanes. It is also claimed that today’s official air maps warn against sudden disturbances of the magnetic field in this area. By the project magnet of the US Navy, with which over 20 years long the magnetic field of the earth was examined, this assumption could be refuted however.
  • Giant waves
    In certain regions of the oceans, the probability of the occurrence of superimposed waves is increased. The amplitudes of these waves add up, so that extremely high waves (Freakwaves) can occur. It is conceivable that such superpositions in the Bermuda Triangle are more likely to occur for geological reasons.
  • Meteorological conditions
    In this area there are often storms, which could also be responsible for a part of the disappeared objects. There is also evidence of this, as in the story of the schooner Glorisko. The sails were shredded and the hold was filled to the top with water. The rudder and the steering wheel were shattered. Newspaper reports from 1940 showed that heavy storms were raging in the area at the time.
  • Other explanations are based on the formation of infrasound by storms in high waves. This triggers fear reactions in humans and animals without the cause being recognized. This explains panic and reactions of ship crews that cannot be justified rationally. Infrasound also spreads unhindered over long distances, so that accidents in regions with good weather could also be explained.

Aswath Damodaran, Session 2: Valuation – The Bermuda Triangle and Approaches to Valuation, [9]

References and Further Reading:

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