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The Bermuda Triangle

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Many people think of the Bermuda Triangle as an area where planes and ships vanish without a trace. Stories of disappearances in the Triangle are often recounted with an air of supernatural mystery. Actually, research shows that disappearances are no more common in that area of the Atlantic than in other heavily trafficked areas of ocean.

There is no official definition of the Bermuda Triangle, but its borders are often defined by imaginary lines connecting South Florida, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. Some people ascribe the name to a much broader area, a dagger shape with its easternmost point at the Azores, including the Gulf of Mexico, the waters around the West Indies, and the waters off the southeastern U.S. The area is also called the Devilís Triangle and by other ominous names: the Twilight Zone, the Hoodoo Sea, the Limbo of the Lost, the Magic Rhombus, the Port of Missing Ships, and the Triangle of Death.

USS Cyclops (1910-1918)

USS Cyclops was the Navy's second ship of that name. A 19,360-ton collier, specially designed to keep a mobile battlefleet supplied with fuel, she was built in 1910 by William Cramp and Sons at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to World War I, she supported U.S. warships in European waters, off the Atlantic seaboard and in the Caribbean as a unit of the Naval Auxiliary Force.

Cyclops entered commissioned service in 1917, and continued carrying coal and other cargo to facilitate the U.S. Navy's wartime operations. In early March 1918, while returning from a voyage to Brazil, USS Cyclops disappeared with all hands. Her wreck has never been found, and the cause of her loss remains unknown.

Earnest Randolph Crammer,
Seaman, U.S. Navy

Who was lost with USS Cyclops in March 1918.
His cap band is from that ship.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Bermuda Triangle Fact Sheet

Prepared by the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters and the Naval Historical Center

The U. S. Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name and does not maintain an official file on the area.

The "Bermuda or Devil's Triangle" is an imaginary area located off the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States, which is noted for a high incidence of unexplained losses of ships, small boats, and aircraft. The apexes of the triangle are generally accepted to be Bermuda, Miami, Fla., and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In the past, extensive, but futile Coast Guard searches prompted by search and rescue cases such as the disappearances of an entire squadron of TBM Avengers shortly after take off from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., or the traceless sinking of USS Cyclops and Marine Sulphur Queen have lent credence to the popular belief in the mystery and the supernatural qualities of the "Bermuda Triangle."

Countless theories attempting to explain the many disappearances have been offered throughout the history of the area. The most practical seem to be environmental and those citing human error. The majority of disappearances can be attributed to the area's unique environmental features. First, the "Devil's Triangle" is one of the two places on earth that a magnetic compass does point towards true north. Normally it points toward magnetic north. The difference between the two is known as compass variation. The amount of variation changes by as much as 20 degrees as one circumnavigates the earth. If this compass variation or error is not compensated for, a navigator could find himself far off course and in deep trouble.

An area called the "Devil's Sea" by Japanese and Filipino seamen, located off the east coast of Japan, also exhibits the same magnetic characteristics. It is also known for its mysterious disappearances.

Another environmental factor is the character of the Gulf Stream. It is extremely swift and turbulent and can quickly erase any evidence of a disaster. The unpredictable Caribbean-Atlantic weather pattern also plays its role. Sudden local thunder storms and water spouts often spell disaster for pilots and mariners. Finally, the topography of the ocean floor varies from extensive shoals around the islands to some of the deepest marine trenches in the world. With the interaction of the strong currents over the many reefs the topography is in a state of constant flux and development of new navigational hazards is swift.

Not to be under estimated is the human error factor. A large number of pleasure boats travel the waters between Florida's Gold Coast and the Bahamas. All too often, crossings are attempted with too small a boat, insufficient knowledge of the area's hazards, and a lack of good seamanship.

The Coast Guard is not impressed with supernatural explanations of disasters at sea. It has been their experience that the combined forces of nature and unpredictability of mankind outdo even the most far fetched science fiction many times each year.

We know of no maps that delineate the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle. However, there are general area maps available through the Distribution Control Department, U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office, Washington, D.C. 20390. Of particular interest to students if mysterious happenings may be the "Aeromagnetic Charts of the U.S. Coastal Region," H.O. Series 17507, 15 sheets. Numbers 9 through 15 cover the "Bermuda Triangle."

Interest in the "Bermuda Triangle" can be traced to
(1) the cover article in the August 1968 Argosy, "The Spreading Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle",
(2) the answer to a letter to the editor of the January 1969 Playboy, and
(3) an article in August 4, 1968 I, "Limbo of Lost Ships", by Leslie Lieber. Also, many newspapers carried a December 22, 1967 National Geographic Society news release which was derived largely from Vincent Gaddis' Invisible Horizons: True Mysteries of the Sea (Chilton Books, Philadelphia, 1965. OCLC# 681276) Chapter 13, "The Triangle of Death", in Mr. Gaddis' book, presents the most comprehensive account of the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. Gaddis describes nine of the more intriguing mysteries and provides copious notes and references. Much of the chapter is reprinted from an article by Mr. Gaddis, "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle", in the February 1964 Argosy. The article elicited a large and enthusiastic response from the magazine's readers. Perhaps the most interesting letter, which appeared in the May 1964 Argosy's "Back Talk" section, recounts a mysterious and frightening incident in an aircraft flying over the area in 1944.

t's a great story, about a section of ocean named "The Devil's Triangle" or "The Bermuda Triangle", in which UFOs are frequently seen and in which ships and airplanes have been mysteriously disappearing for years. But is it so? How did the story get started? When I was was a kid, my dad used to buy magazines with names like True and Argosy and Saga. These magazines were popular in the 1950's, and 1960's, particularly among young men. They featured factual and fictional adventure stories, and some stories that were mixtures of both, along with a variety of articles and pictures aimed at their target audience. In the early fifties, Major Donald Keyhoe, perhaps the first modern ufologist, wrote several articles about flying saucers for True, beginning with "The Flying Saucers are Real" in 1950.

It was also in 1950 that an Associated Press writer named E.V.W. Jones wrote an article hinting that there was something mysterious about the disappearance of five Navy Avenger torpedo bombers off the coast of Florida in 1945. In 1952, the Avengers' disappearances were written about again in Raymond Palmer's Fate magazine in 1952 in an article titled "Sea Mystery at Our Back Door" by George X. Sand.

As best I can tell, the first book to mention the Avengers' disappearances in connection with flying saucers was one by Harold T. Wilkins called Flying Saucers on the Attack in 1954. The next year, Kehoe mentioned the disappearances in his book The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, and a writer named Morris K. Jessup included them in The Case for the UFO. The Bermuda Triangle received its name in 1964 from an article in Argosy magazine by Vincent H. Gaddis, who defined it as a triangle with points at Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and the east coast of Florida. Ivan Sanderson began writing about the Triangle in 1968, and even the National Geographic carried an item about it. By 1974, there had been at least three popular books about the triangle, including Charles Berlitz's The Bermuda Triangle. (This was the same Charles Berlitz who wrote The Roswell Incident and The Philadelphia Experiment with William L. Moore.) During the 1970's, there were articles about the Triangle in magazines as diverse as SAGA and The Catholic Digest. The fifteenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica even had an article about the Triangle.

In 1975, a librarian at Arizona State University named Larry Kusche decided to do some REAL research into the Triangle "disappearances". He found that the people writing about the Bermuda Triangle were just copying each others' stories. None of them were actually going back and checking the records to see what actually happened to the ships and planes in question. He investigated each case and found that in many cases, the "disappearances" did not occur within the Triangle at all, and of the ones that did, many of them had known causes, including the disappearance of the five Avengers. Statistically, mysterious disappearances do not occur more frequently within the Bermuda Triangle than within any other section of ocean of the same size with the same amount of traffic. If they did, then insurance companies who insure boats and planes would be the first to know it, and they say it just ain't so.

That said, I must tell you that one of the most credible UFO sightings that I have ever been told about was made by an executive of my company who is very skeptical of anything to do with UFOs or the paranormal. He was sailing leisurely one night on his sailboat when he and the others aboard saw a strange lighted object in the sky that followed the boat in a curious zig-zag fashion for several minutes. They were sailing out of Eleuthera, in the Bahamas, in the Bermuda Triangle....