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Lost at Sea
The Bermuda Triangle

Lost at Sea
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Quite possibly the most maligned stretch of ocean in the Western Hemisphere, popular culture attributes extraterrestrials, magic, and other occult powers to one of the world’s busiest intersections of shipping: the Bermuda Triangle. Although not officially recognized by any U.S. governmental agency, the area roughly covers a triangle of ocean from Miami, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico to the island of Bermuda. This loose definition of territory varies, with the total square miles covered ranging from 500,000 to 1.5 million.

Considering the busy-ness of shipping commerce and flight charters passing through the region, a history of lost ships, submarines, and airplanes can come as no surprise. Research actually shows, however, that the Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle, hardly qualifies as one of the most dangerous cross sections of oceangoing trade.

Both recorded history and science discredit any attribution of otherworldly or arcane qualities to the Bermuda Triangle, although the manufactured mystery has captured human imagination since October 11, 1492, when Christopher Columbus and the crew of the Santa Maria reported a sighting of an unknown light shortly before landing at Guanahani. Corroborated by Australian scientists regarding large deposits of methane close to the earth’s crust beneath the ocean waves, a concentration of methane bubbles escaping such a deposit could, in fact, reduce the density of water. The gas hydrates then cause water to lose the density needed for flotation, which would, in theory, rapidly sink any vessel attempting to sail through the compromised medium.
Since the nineteenth century, authors and scriptwriters have used the Bermuda Triangle in their work. Modern fascination traces back to E. V. W. Jones and his Associated Press dispatch on September 16, 1950. The reporter described a series of mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft in the 1940s. He referred to the unexplained disappearances of the U.S. Navy’s Flight 19 training mission during which five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers vanished on December 5,1945, and the Star Tiger and Star Ariel, commercial aircraft that also vanished in the region on January 30, 1948, and January 17, 1949, respectively.

The intrigue proposed by Jones led astronomist Morris K. Jessup to elaborate upon some of those same stories in his book The Case for the UFO (1955). An avid ufologist, Jessup suggested aliens were responsible for the disappearances. Naval marine aviator Donald E. Keyhoe added his support with his book Flying Saucer Conspiracy (1955), as did writer and broadcaster Frank Edwards in his book Stranger than Science (1959).

In 1964, Argosy magazine published an article titled “The Deadly Bermuda Triangle” by Vincent H. Gaddis. He attributed the unexplained disappearances of ships and aircraft in the Bermuda Triangle to occult phenomena and expanded the concept in his follow-up book Invisible Horizons. This catapulted the Bermuda Triangle into urban legend and subsequently led to its incorporation into modern literature, television, and movies.

By Karen M. Smith

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