At sea, ancient tales are rife: ghost ships disappearing into the night, sunken cities and giant squid, pulling ships to a cold, watery grave. But there is one mystery of the sea that towers above all others: the strange goings-on of the Bermuda Triangle.
The triangle lies between Puerto Rico, Florida and Bermuda. Stories of strange activity stretch back to as far as Christopher Columbus, who claimed his compass stopped working in this region. Not many ships have actually been sunk there, but those that did always had an eerie air about them. The stories behind the disappearances are varied and many say supernatural, but however creepy they are, they are more than likely to still be within the realms of science… right?
The USS Cyclops is probably the largest ship lost in the triangle. On 4th March 1918 she set off on a routine voyage and was never seen again. The loss of the 306 crew members is still the highest death toll the US Navy has experienced outside of combat. Haunting as this may be, the weather of the region more than likely holds the answer to this incident: the ship vanished in an area where different ocean currents meet, causing all manner of bizarre weather phenomena. Rogue waves can appear from apparently nowhere, towering over ships and engulfing them in an instant. Sea spouts (tornados which have consumed vast amounts of water) are highly prevalent in the area, with over a hundred sightings every year.
A further two cases are harder to explain – in 1881 a ship called the Ellen Austen was found adrift with no crew. Some versions of the story say that some men climbed aboard to sail her back, only to vanish too. The Carroll A. Deering was another ship discovered without a soul aboard: she turned up in 1919 run aground on a reef. Some say she was the victim of a pirate attack, but rumours still circulate.
Of the planes to disappear, Flight 19 is by far the most famous, but also the easiest to explain. Just after World War Two, five torpedo bombers were on a routine training mission, all flown by experienced pilots. The lead plane sent radio messages claiming his navigation instruments had failed over the Florida Quays. This is the last that was ever heard of the planes. Search and rescue planes vanished too in their endeavours, adding to mystery of the incident. But the events can be explained quite logically: the lead pilot had never flown this route, and probably mistook the Bahamas for the Florida Quays, which both look similar. He simply was lost, and took the other planes with him. As for the rescue plane disappearing – well, the planes were known as ‘flying gas cans’ for a reason; they had a nasty habit of blowing up mid-flight.
Yet the strangest part of Flight 19 incident wasn’t Flight 19 at all. A search for the lost planes a few years ago found five planes clustered together on the sea bed, assumed initially to be from Flight 19 squad. The serial numbers revealed something very odd though: these planes were not Flight 19. They had all been lost at different times, crashing into the same patch of open ocean over a period of a few months. Can anyone really explain that?
The Triangle has had its fair share of mysteries. Science has done its best in explaining most of them, but some allude the logical explanations and continue to amaze and mystify us.