Graphic by: Vincentia Thatcher
Graphic by: Vincentia Thatcher

Freaky Friday: The Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle

November 10, 2022

Throughout the course of history, ships and planes have disappeared with no trace or indication as to where they have gone. The Bermuda Triangle is one of the most famous urban legends about missing aircraft and U.S. Navy ships. This has given the region the more than earned name, the Devil’s Triangle.

The Devil’s Ocean Mystery

The Bermuda Triangle spans about 500,000 square miles with the vertices located in Miami, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. Though it doesn’t appear on world maps, nor is it recognized as an official region in the Atlantic Ocean, almost everyone in the world is aware of its existence.

Since the 1800s, the triangle has collected dozens of mysterious disappearances under her belt. From the famous Flight 19 and USS Cyclops, to the less-known fact of Christopher Columbus’s sightings of the Devil’s Triangle, this region of the world continues to mystify. During his journey to the new world, Christopher Columbus claimed that he saw a great flame of fire crash into the sea one night. Afterwards, he saw strange light appear from a distance, and a few weeks later he claimed that his compass wasn’t working correctly.

Flight 19

On December 5, 1945, a group of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers left a Navy Air Station located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The flight was a routine training flight that was drilling an exercise known as “Navigation Problem No. 1” that would have taken them east from the Florida coast for a bomb run over a place known as Hens and Chickens Shoals, north over the Grand Bahama, and southwest back to their base. The leader of the flight was Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor, who was an experienced pilot, especially with the TBM-type aircraft, and a veteran of multiple WWII combat missions.

Flight 19 was the nineteenth flight that was scheduled for that day. Each of the previous flights progressed just as nicely as this flight had begun. The group was over Hens and Chickens Shoals, and performed their drills without any accidents. After the flight turned north for the second part of the route, however, Taylor gave a message to Ft. Lauderdale’s flight tower sounding confused. He kept saying that his compass wasn’t working, the planes were flying in the wrong direction, and that they were off course.

As time passed and their fuel was running low, the group still had not found land. A storm was also brewing, and it was not helping communication. Over the radio, Taylor’s last message was picked up. He was heard saying “All planes close up tight…we’ll have to ditch unless landfall. When the first plane drops below ten gallons, we all go down together.”

Even after searching with both aircraft and ships, the planes of Flight 19 were not found. In fact, one of the aircraft sent to search for them also disappeared. It’s theorized that Lt. Charles C. Taylor mistook small islands that he passed over as the Florida Keys, and the flight was over the Gulf of Mexico. But are these theories trying to make the ending of this flight seem normal so that they don’t have to admit that something sinister is going on in the triangle?

The Carroll A. Deering

On August 26, 1920, the Carroll A. Deering set sail for Rio de Janeiro from Virginia to deliver a shipment of coal. Less than a week after beginning its voyage, the ship had to stop ashore after the captain, William Meritt, fell ill; an omen, perhaps, of what was to come in the next few months. A new captain, Willis Wormell, was hastily appointed so that the Deering could continue its journey. The delivery was a success, and on December 2, the ship began its long trip back to the United States. 

During the voyage, Wormell and his first mate, Charles McClellan, had grown to dislike each other. During a stop in Barbados in 1921, Wormell mentioned to a friend that McClellan was “habitually drunk” and treated the ship’s crew too brutally. McClellan had also made death threats to Wormell. It was with this unbridled hatred of each other, that the two would leave the island with the rest of the Deering’s crew. The ship left Barbados on January 9, which would be the last time the crew was ever seen. 

On January 28, the ship was spotted off the coast of North Carolina by a lighthouse keeper at Cape Lookout. The lighthouse keeper said that a man with a megaphone had hailed him from the Deering, and claimed that its anchors had been lost in a storm. The man also suggested that the ship’s owners, the G.G. Deering company, be notified of the incident. The lighthouse keeper also noted that the Deering’s crew was “milling about” on the quarterdeck, an area usually reserved for the captain. 

Three days later the shipwreck of the Carroll A. Deering was found by a lookout at the Cape Hatteras Coast Guard Station. Investigations of the wreckage showed no trace of the crew or captain. Nothing except for the dinner left on the stove, and a few things that had been left in the captain’s cabin. The FBI launched an investigation into the disappearance of the crew, and it was found that a number of other ships had disappeared while traveling similar routes. A number of theories exist for what exactly happened to the Deering, including piracy, hurricane, and mutiny, but could the supernatural powers of the Bermuda Triangle have influenced its fate?

USS Cyclops

In February 1918, the USS Cyclops was on a course set for Baltimore, Maryland with no stops scheduled. It was carrying manganese ore, and was thought to have been overloaded when it departed from Brazil. A report was submitted by Commander Worley before they left about how there was a cracked cylinder in the starboard engine. The report did get confirmed by a survey board, and it was recommended that the ship return to the U.S.

An unscheduled stop was made in Barbados because the water levels were over the Plimsoll line, showing that the boat was overloaded. However, investigations in Rio, the place the USS Cyclops departed from, showed that the ship had been loaded and secured properly. The Cyclops left for Baltimore on March 4, and was supposedly spotted on March 9 near Virginia by the Amolco, but this was later disproved.. The Cyclops never reached Baltimore, and wreckage was never found.

Paranormal Explanation

Many theories have popped up about what is going on in the Devil’s Triangle. Some people believe that there is technology left over from the lost city of Atlantis. Others believe that perhaps UFOs are the cause of the multiple disappearances over the decades.

An interesting theory is that the Bermuda Triangle contains a parallel universe inside it. This would mean that all the ships and aircraft that have been lost in the triangle were sucked into the universe by a time and space warp.

The Scientific Explanation

It should not be surprising, that with the many supernatural theories surrounding the Triangle, skeptics have been drawn in. The US Coast Guard is notable for having a large collection of documents and investigations that directly contradict many claims about Triangle-related incidents. Author Larry Kusche conducted his own research, and concluded that the number of disappearances is over-reported. This is not surprising for an area frequented by tropical storms, and not proportionately higher than any other part of the ocean, especially given the number of ships and planes that travel through it on a regular basis.

But if supernatural forces aren’t to blame, what causes these disappearances? The most obvious culprit is the violent weather associated with this part of the Atlantic. Hurricanes and tropical storms can be attributed to several of the Triangles earlier victims, as weather-detecting satellites weren’t developed until the late 20th century. Another common issue is compass variation. True North (used on maps) points towards the Geographic North Pole and Magnetic North (used by compasses) points towards the Magnetic North Pole. Both are rarely perfectly aligned, and when traversing a large area, such as the Bermuda Triangle, compass variation is very likely to occur, which may confuse inexperienced navigators. Some have attributed this compass variation to strong magnetic anomalies in the area, although research has shown that none exist there. Another popular theory that researchers have disproved is that a large concentration of methane hydrates could be making the water of the Bermuda Triangle less dense, and therefore making ships more likely to sink. Studies by the United States Geological Survey show that it is unlikely that a methane hydrate release had occurred in the Triangle in over 15,000 years. Other explanations for the disappearances include small boats and seaplanes getting swept away by the Gulf Stream, an ocean surface current that flows through the Triangle; and good-old-fashioned human error.

The Triangle Now

Like many urban legends, people still talk about the Bermuda Triangle to this day. Some people like to believe that, like many legends, the Triangle is dormant and not claiming any victims. Unfortunately, the triangle is still active. Though, if you look on Wikipedia, fewer planes and ships have gone missing than they did decades ago, though some still do disappear today.

So the next time you are on a plane or cruise ship, make sure to check the path that the vessel is going on. Who knows, that trip may be your last.

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