The Bermuda Triangle
The Bermuda Triangle is an area of sea off the coast of the US, which is between 500,000 and 1.5 million square miles in area depending on the source of the information. Some people believe that an unusually large number of disasters have occurred in the area. Why this area is particularly dangerous to ships and aircraft depends on which theory you prefer, but explanations include: UFOs, pirates, unusual weather conditions, and vortexes into other dimensions (see note 1).
Before an explanation of the phenomenon is attempted its necessary to confirm there is anything requiring explanation. Some analyses of the Triangle suggest the number of incidents is not unusually high considering the size of the area and the amount of traffic there (see note 2). Another issue is the inaccurate reporting of the location of events. Many are listed as happening in the Triangle, but in reality they have happened in another location (see note 3).
The story began to gain prominence at the end of World War II where Flight 19, a navy training mission, was lost in a severe storm. The most likely explanation for the loss was failure of the lead pilot's compass and the other aircraft were not fitted with operational compasses. Most likely the flight was lost and ran out of fuel. One of the planes in a rescue mission did explode, but a faulty fuel tank was suspected and again, no unusual explanation was necessary.
Claims and Reality
A book, "The Bermuda Triangle", written by Charles Berlitz in 1974 sold 5 million copies and made the area and its associated theories well known. There has been significant criticism of the book for changing the reported facts (see note 4), and inventing a lot of new information which was not in any official reports. Some of the supposed facts which support an unusual explanation of the "Flight 19" case, and comments on them are listed here...
Claim: The aircraft disappeared on a sunny afternoon.
Claim: The pilots were all experienced combat aviators.
Claim: The Avenger torpedo bombers were capable of landing on water and floating
for long periods.
Claim: The chief pilot was capable of handling the situation.
Another famous mystery sometimes associated with the Bermuda triangle is the Mary Celeste. In fact it had nothing to do with the area at all. The ship was found near Europe. The book "The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved" was partly to blame for this because it made several errors on the subject (sometimes skeptical books have errors too). What actually happened to this ship is unknown although the evidence indicates it was abandoned and there is no real reason to suspect anything beyond mutiny or the crew and passengers leaving the ship after it was in danger of sinking.
The Star Tiger and Star Ariel were two four-engined Tudor IV airliners operated by British South American Airways Corporation which flew the route from South America to Bermuda. They were both lost in the Triangle (in 1948 and 1949) and no reasonable explanation has ever been made. The weather conditions were good and there was no distress call. This type of aircraft was withdrawn after the incidents so its possible the company suspected a mechanical problem. Also, mysterious loss of aircraft doesn't make bizarre explanations necessary. Its inevitable that some accidents will be unexplained even when common phenomena are involved.
In many of the incidents there is no wreckage or other evidence of the ship ever existing afterwards. But this doesn't require an extraordinary explanation either. Because of the strong currents and deep water in the area its quite reasonable to assume the evidence of the incident will be difficult to locate and recover.
There are records of many losses in the area, but as I have already said, there is no reason to believe the rate of loss is any greater than anywhere else based on the amount of traffic. The deep water, strong currents, and difficult weather conditions contribute to the rate of loss, and difficulty in locating wreckage and other evidence. So there is no reason to believe a theory regarding the Bermuda Triangle beyond anything which would also apply to many other parts of the world, and its certainly unnecessary to create a theory based on UFO visits, psychic forces, or any other form of unexplained or pseudo-scientific phenomenon.
There have been a lot of losses in this area - some under strange circumstances - but if the loss rate is analysed and the real events are examined there's no reason to believe extraordinary explanations. Therefore I give this a moderate score on the crap-ometer!
1. More realistic attributes of the Triangle which might cause problems include the following... First, there are methane hydrates which can release gas and cause loss of buoyancy, explosions, or phenomena related to ionisation (there are other areas of the world similarly affected). The second is that a compass will point to true north there - in most areas of the oceans a compensation factor is required. Another issue is that hurricanes are fairly common in the area. Finally, the Gulf Stream runs through the triangle at 2 to 4 knots which can complicate navigation and trap unusual weather patterns.
2. It is very significant that the major insurer of shipping, Lloyds of London, has determined the number of losses in the area is about the same as anywhere else, considering the amount of traffic. Since they pay out on losses it would be expected they would have a good idea of how hazardous the area might be.
3. Several books have mentioned the Mary Celeste in relation to the Bermuda Triangle, but not only was it discovered near Europe, but it never sailed through the area at any time.
4. A criticism of the Berlitz book is presented in "The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved" (1975). Lawrence David Kusche (ISBN 0-87975-971-2).
Sources of Further Information
There are many web sites with information on this subject. Below I have shown some which present the information for both sides of the argument.
Skeptics Dictionary A critical view on the