The Bermuda, Or Devil?s, Triangle is an area of ocean found off the south?eastern tip of the United States. It is a region of water indelibly connected with mysterious vessel disappearances; the popular perception is that countless boats and planes have been inexplicably lost there. The triangle extends from Bermuda to Miami and then to the Puerto Rico, and is said to contain a supernatural secret. Some high profile disappearances have occurred there, and the notion of its existence has been turned into a modern myth in the media. Even the term ?Bermuda Triangle? was coined in a fictional publication. But does the sea here really house some unknown power that pulls sea and airmen to their doom, or is this mystery based mainly on imagination?
The most famous loss in the triangle is known as the mystery of Flight 19, and happened on 5th December 1945. A squadron of five US Navy Avenger torpedo bombers set off from their base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to conduct a practice mission over the island of Bimini. The flight contained 14 men, all of them students apart from the commander, Lt Charles Taylor. About an hour and a half after the mission began, radio operators received a signal from Taylor saying his compasses were not working, but he believed he was over the Florida Keys. He was advised to fly north which would bring him back to the mainland. In fact, he was over the Bahamas, and his attempts to head north and north?east merely took him further away from solid ground. A terrible storm that day hampered communications and it seems Taylor rejected a suggestion to pass control of the squadron to one of the other pilots.
Radio contact was entirely lost and search craft were dispatched to try and find the flight to guide them back in. Of the three planes used to rescue Flight 19, one lost communications itself because of an iced over aerial, one was just unsuccessful whilst another seemed to explode shortly after take?off. Flight 19 itself has never been found, but it is assumed that they ditched into the raging sea when their fuel ran out, with the heavy planes rapidly sinking to the ocean floor. The US Navy recorded that the disaster was caused by Taylor?s confusion, but an appeal by his family had this overturned, and a verdict of ?causes or reasons unknown? was given. However, Flight 19 is not the only high profile official loss in the area, and the USS Cyclops and Marine Sulphur Queen have also disappeared without trace.
The legend of Flight 19 was cemented by its inclusion in Steven Spielberg?s Close Encounters of the Third Kind movie. Indeed, some theories state that visiting UFO craft enter an underwater base in the Bermuda area, and they have been the cause of the disappearances. Other fantastical ideas such as technologies from Atlantis or evil marine creatures have also been considered. Some people even suggest the triangle is the site of a gateway into another dimension. Strange oceanographic features such as huge clouds of methane gas escaping from the seabed have also been blamed for the disappearances.
In reality, the triangle does have one natural quality which may contribute to the losses. Unlike everywhere else in the world ? apart from the Dragon?s Triangle near Japan ? compasses point to true north rather than magnetic north. This may be a contributing factor to the triangle?s legend, but the US Coastguard officially believes the losses are caused by a mixture of environmental and man-made mistakes. This region is used by a large amount of ocean and air traffic, much of which is navigated by inexperienced pleasure-seekers. A strong Gulf Stream and unpredictable weather conditions not only cause vessels to run into trouble, but also remove many traces of them once they have been wrecked.
It is interesting also to note that the coastguard does not view the area as having a particularly high incidence of accidents. One researcher examined many historic losses in the triangle. He came to the conclusion that rumours and elaboration had clouded the real, understandable, causes behind the events. Similarly, the interna?tional insurers, Lloyd?s of London, have records that demonstrate that this region near Bermuda is no more treacherous than any other waterway. However, the myth of the Bermuda Triangle is so strong it will live on as long as fictional writers use it as a site of mysterious happenings.