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The Bermuda Triangle is an area of the ocean lying between the three points of Bermuda, an island off the eastern Atlantic coast, Miami, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. This relatively small expanse of sea is legendary as a dangerous place where airplanes and ships disappear without warning or explanation. Although there are few people within the United States who have not heard of the Bermuda Triangle, many do not believe that there is anything abnormal about it. In the scientific community there is also some debate as to the validity of the legend; unfortunately individuals rather than institutions have led many of the scientific expeditions into the Bermuda Triangle, so any findings that are reported must be interpreted with a moderate amount of skepticism. Nonetheless, the idea that this stretch of ocean means almost certain demise to a watery grave is one that many Americans hold, and some even believe the stories so much as to refuse to travel through the Triangle. In order to determine whether the phenomenon in the Bermuda Triangle do pose a greater risk to sea voyagers it is necessary to compare evidence from both sides of the argument, and include empirical data rather than just word of mouth and personal stories. A fundamental, and perhaps the most important, question to ask is what conceived the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. The most famous of all incidents related to the Bermuda Triangle is Flight 19. Flight 19 was a routine practice flight lead by Lt. Charles Taylor. The flight consisted of fourteen men whose objectives were to fly out to Hens and Chicken Shoals to conduct practice bombings, and then return along a triangular flight path. Allegedly, during the flight, the lieutenant reported that he was having compass malfunctions but thought himself to be over the Florida Keys. None of
the other men on the flight were as experienced as Taylor, which may have contributed significantly to the unfortunate turn of events. After reporting, Taylor was told to fly back north towards Miami, as the flight was originally intended to fly due east. Taylor did so, but many researchers have theorized that Flight 19 had indeed been flying east and thus after altering course began to fly north parallel with the eastern coast of the United States. Despite urgings from his students, Taylor refused to alter the flight away from a northward path. The aircraft of Flight 19 were heavy bomber craft, and thus any wreckage that may have been recovered likely sank quickly due to the enormous weight of each plane. The lack of recovered planes helped make the demise of Flight 19 a mystery, but even more important than that was the insistence of Lt. Taylor¶s mother to remove navigational error as the cause for the flight going down. The official report about Flight 19 listed the cause as unknown, and subsequently the legend of the Bermuda Triangle was born. Had Flight 19 been the only significant disappearance in the area of the Bermuda Triangle, the legend may never have been born, but there have indeed been numerous disappearances of both people and craft within this stretch of sea. Another famous vessel lost at sea in the Bermuda Triangle was the USS Cyclops, a wartime naval ship that disappeared in 1918. The striking details of this incident were that the Navy found no wreckage from the ships, no distress calls were ever sent out, and it had a large and experienced crew. Although this story lends some credibility to the Bermuda Triangle story many of the other disappearances have simple explanations that are simply unable to be verified due to the nature of a ship disappearing at sea. An example of a ship that likely sank due to very explainable circumstances was the SS Marine Sulfur
Queen. The Queen was a ship in very poor condition, originally an oil tanker, redesigned to transport molten sulfur. The most likely of scenarios is that a gas leak within the ship may have suffocated most of the crew before the transmission of a distress signal, or simply caused the ship to explode. An explosion would sent bits of debris sinking down into the sea, prevent recovery of much or any wreckage, and a report of an odd, acrid smell off the coast of Cuba lends credence to the idea that the SS Marine Sulfur Queen detonated at sea. One final notable instance of a disappearance within the Bermuda Triangle was NC16002, a passenger-class plane en route from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Miami, Florida. The flight took place on a clear day, with fair skies, and the pilot was experienced. The last known transmission from NC16002 stated that the flight was within 50 miles of Miami, however, the plane never touched down. The most plausible theory regarding the demise of NC16002 was that a communication sent from Miami never reached the plane to notify it of a change in the direction of the wind. This wind change may have offset the flight path, and caused the pilot to end up far off course. Any distress signals would have also been silenced by a malfunction in communications equipment, not only sealing the fate of the flight, but also causing the disappearance to be surrounded in mystery. Along with these more famous cases, many reports of small craft disappearing have occurred over the years. The Bermuda Triangle does not have definite boundaries as one might expect, in fact, many authors have argued that the region is abstract at best, simply using the estimated locations of disappeared ships and planes as reference points to loosely define the borders of the Triangle. Coupled together, these two pieces
of information imply that any ship manned by an amateur crew, or any plane flown by an amateur pilot that goes missing anywhere off the southeastern coast of the United States may be included as evidence of the mysterious powers of the Bermuda Triangle. These additional disappearances cause supporters of the Bermuda Triangle to argue that reports and statistics from large institutions may be colored or incomplete. Nonetheless, records do exist from major institutions such as the US Navy, the US Air Force, and Lloyd¶s of London, a longstanding British insurance company that found its start in marine insurance. Many supporters of the theory that the Bermuda Triangle is somehow a special area in the sea espouse their belief due to the large number of disappearances of mostly small craft in the area. Often stories of world-renown sailors disappearing during a simple pleasure ride in the Caribbean cause listeners to believe that there may indeed be something ³spooky´ going on in the Triangle. Unfortunately, many people within the general public have only a slight understanding of nautical travel, and the risks involved in traveling in any part of the ocean, regardless of experience. One important detail to note is that smaller craft are much more susceptible to flash storms. Weather patterns over the ocean are distinctly different from weather patterns over land. The most obvious example of this is that hurricanes, one of the most powerful storms in nature, only develop over warm waters. Flowing through much of the Bermuda Triangle, as well as much of the Caribbean is the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is a current of warm water flowing rapidly through the cooler oceanic waters. The disparity of temperature between the two large bodies of water makes sudden small storms likely, if not inevitable. A squall is a short storm that may last only thirty minutes, but can contain
high-power winds easily capable of producing large enough waves to sink a personal vessel such as a yacht. Along with the Gulf Stream, strange magnetic fluctuations in the area of the Bermuda Triangle add complications for any vessel, especially smaller craft. The Bermuda Triangle is one of two parts in the world in which magnetic north and the North Pole line up. For an experienced navigator, the proper adjustments for the change in magnetic patterns can be complicated, and for the inexperienced, it can be very difficult. For anyone inexperienced with travel in this area, the odd readings of the compass might startle and even cause a panic. When traveling on open sea, there are no landmarks, and once a ship has lost course, without reliable compass readings there would be no way to locate land. Although complications with compass readings do make the area around the Bermuda Triangle significantly more difficult to travel, a responsible voyager would be sure to understand the fluctuations in the area, and be able to make the necessary adjustments to their calculations to ensure that the trip would end at the destination, rather than the bottom of the sea. With so few major mysteries involving the Bermuda Triangle, and with many of the small craft disappearances easily explained by the natural forces in the area, the question arises as to why the Bermuda Triangle remains so popular in the public conscious. The impact of stories such as Flight 19 and the USS Cyclops seem to have had far-reaching effects on public perception. Bizarre stories involving entire ships disappearing and experienced pilots flying into oblivion, spark the curiosity of many people. Newspapers capitalize on natural curiosity and may intentionally or otherwise, leave out details or theories that diminish the mystery of the story itself. In the
postmodern era, many pieces of technology are taken for granted, GPS, sophisticated communications devices, and even better constructed craft are often generalized to times before they existed. In the first half of the twentieth century, many communications systems were easily disrupted by storms and other natural forces. Several instances of ships disappearing without a trace may simply involve a failure to communicate, or the inability to communicate, like the theory regarding the disappearance of NC16002. The Bermuda Triangle does seem to be a slightly more dangerous area of the ocean, simply due to the effects of the natural forces which exist there. The evidence does not point to any supernatural or extraterrestrial forces being involved in the area. Flight 19 being the most famous case was in fact never a mystery at all, but the information released to the public made it appear so. The Bermuda Triangle is a mysterious place where ships have been lost without explanation, but the same has occurred all over the world at sea. The Bermuda Triangle may be an outstanding example of the dangers of nautical travel, and could potentially claim the lives of amateur pilots and ship captains, especially if the individuals are unfamiliar with the exceptional climatic conditions. However, the Bermuda Triangle is not a place of mysterious disappearances caused by UFOs, magnetic signals for Atlantis, or a sea leviathan that eats unfortunate ships. The Bermuda Triangle is a place where the casual voyager should be wary, but any passenger on a flight, cruise, or other travel through with an experienced crew should have no trepidation about the trip.
Works Cited Krystek, Lee. The Museum of Unnatural History. 2010. 10 April 2010 <http://www.unmuseum.org/triangle.htm>. Mayell, Hillary. "Bermuda Triangle: Behind the Intrigue." 15 December 2003. National Geographic News. 10 April 2010 <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1205_021205_bermudatrian gle.html>. Quasar, Gian. Bermuda-Triangle.Org. 2010. 10 April 2010 <http://www.bermudatriangle.org/>. Rosenberg, Howard L. Bermuda Triangle. 12 May 1996. 10 April 2010 <http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq8-3.htm>.