Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Bermuda Triangle: from fiction to flatulence

Can’t you see I’m easily bothered by persistence?
--Walk, Pantera
When someone mentions Bermuda, I think of two things:  shorts and a triangle of doom.  Bermuda shorts can be explained with a simple story of a WWII clothing shortage demanding business attire that was spare, but appropriate.

Nice legs.
If only the Bermuda Triangle was as simple as frugal fashion.
The Bermuda Triangle, a.k.a. The Devil’s Triangle, is an area spanning over 500,000 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean.  Its traditional endpoints are Bermuda; Miami, Florida; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Don’t ask the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Board of Geographic Names where it is, however.  Neither recognizes its existence. 

Loss of ships in the Triangle has been documented back to the time of Columbus, but the suggestion that the area may have an unusual predilection for carnage did not begin until the 1940s.  It wasn’t even given its name until 1964, when Vincent Gaddis coined the term “Bermuda Triangle” in the fiction magazine, Argosy.  By the 1970s, documentaries and even a bestselling novel by Charles Berlitz helped fuel the mystique.

from bermuda-triangle. org
The Coast Guard maintains that there is no greater incidence of events in the Bermuda Triangle than anywhere else in the world.  The number thrown around is about 100 disappearances in 100 years.  As more “proof” of the safety in the area, Lloyd’s of London does not charge any extra insurance fee to vessels that commonly use this waterway.  Gian J. Quasar, author of Into the Bermuda Triangle and curator of the website Bermuda-triangle-org points out that Lloyd’s does not insure small craft and the Coast Guard reports do not include missing/overdue vessels, so both are likely underestimating the true amount of losses. 
An American pilot and author, Larry Kusche, dismissed many Bermuda Triangle myths as simple folklore propagated by uncritical authors.  He claimed that virtually all of the incidents were weather related, accidents, or never even occurred within the Triangle.  Such as the case of President Aaron Burr’s daughter who was reported to be a victim but was actually on a ship going from South Carolina to New York--nowhere near the Triangle. 
So is the Bermuda Triangle just another bit of fictional fantasy?  
When investigating the Triangle, there are lists of vessels that are reported victims.  The first one that gets a lot of attention is the U.S.S. Cyclops in 1918, which was on its way to aid in the refueling of British ships during WWI.  The ship and all 306 people on board never reached their destination.  No wreckage was found, although popular belief held that the ship was sunk by a German submarine.  This has never been confirmed, not even from German records.
The SS Marine Sulphur Queen was mentioned by Gaddis in his Argosy piece as another Triangle victim.  This was a tanker carrying 15,000 tons of molten sulphur in heated tanks in 1963.  It reported in for a routine check, and then was never heard from again.  Only small debris and parts of life jackets were found.  An extensive investigation by the Coast Guard revealed that the Sulphur Queen was essentially a floating disaster area.  She was originally an oil tanker, repurposed to carry sulfur.  She also had a weak keel, and the sulfur loading would have produced a tendency to capsize, or even cause something like this:
A sister ship of the Sulphur Queen with a broken keel
The most celebrated mystery of the Bermuda Triangle is the story of Flight 19.  It was even commemorated by Spielberg in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  On a beautiful day in December, 1945, five Navy Avenger torpedo bombers set out on a training mission led by Lieutenant Charles Taylor.  At some point during the flight, Taylor put out a call for help, claiming his compass was not working.  Forensic analysis of the calls shows that Taylor believed he was over the Florida Keys, but he was actually closer to the Bahamas.  Despite advice to change course, even from his students, he continued on a northeast trajectory--going out to sea.  Two more planes embarked to guide him home, but one mysteriously exploded shortly after take off.  In all, six planes were lost in the Bermuda triangle, never seen again.  Skeptics think Taylor and his students ran out of gas and plummeted into the sea.
There are several less well known disappearances, like the Star Ariel, the Star Tiger, Flight 201 or the demise of Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail solo around the world.  Some of the most fascinating stories involve ship crews that disappeared--but the ship reappeared later unscathed.  
There have been countless theories proposed about what happens in the Bermuda Triangle, ranging from flatulence to fraud.  Part of the mystique of the Bermuda Triangle is that it is reported to be one of only two places on earth where supposedly a compass points to true north, rather than magnetic north.  That altered magnetism becomes the root of some of the modern explanations.
And now you know why your compass wouldn't work.  Pic from
I wasn’t a Girl Scout, so I did not understand the implications of a faulty compass.  Basically, a compass works because its needle is attracted to the Earth’s magnetism--thus, the point is drawn to magnetic north.  The actual geographic North Pole is fixed (because Santa can’t find his way out of a paper bag without his reindeer).  The variation between the true north and magnetic north can change up to twenty degrees.  Inexperienced sailors or pilots could possibly be confused in the triangle due to the changes caused by this alignment of true and magnetic north--but it’s doubtful a skilled navigator would be.  Interestingly, this theory is what the Coast Guard initially issued as the etiology of most ship losses in the Bermuda Triangle.  They later recanted the claim.
The weather seems to be a popular villain; indeed, the Gulf Stream is quite swift and turbulent in this area, which can result in vicious storms with little warning.  The area also is a hotbed of geologic activity, with frequent earthquakes that have been documented to produce freak 100-ft waves at times.  As far as the total disappearance of ships and planes with little or no debris, the underwater topography may be to blame.  Some of the deepest trenches in the ocean exist within the Triangle, including one by Puerto Rico that is 27,500 feet below sea level. 
My favorite theory has been dubbed “ocean flatulence”.  
I knew I shouldn't have had that bean burrito.  Pic from
Methane gas is created from the decay of sea organisms with bacterial assistance.  Pockets of this gas occur quite frequently in this area, and rupture of one could produce massive implosion, as well as change the density of the overlying sea.  Any ship caught in the area would immediately sink, and a plane engine could theoretically ignite.  Hitting a pocket of methane gas is what is believed to have happened to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig when it exploded in 2010.
The aftermath of hitting a methane pocket.
Another interesting theory involves “electronic fog”.  Charles Lindbergh was actually the first to describe the phenomenon in his memoirs as a strange vapor that surrounded his plane as his navigation system seemed to falter.  When he came out of it, he had traveled much further than his fuel gages reflected.  Commercial pilot Bruce Gernon coined the term in 1970 after a similar experience.  He later co-wrote a book about it with the creative title, The Fog.  Not to be confused with the 80s zombie ghost movie of the same name.
Gernon's book did not have zombie ghosts.  Although I didn't read it, so I could be wrong.
Electronic fog is where meteorology meets electromagnetism.  Gernon recalled that his navigation equipment went haywire inside the fog.  He surmised that emissions of electromagnetic energy from within the earth create transient atmospheric changes--the result of which was a thick, milky white fog.   David Pares, a meteorologist from the great state of Nebraska has researched electronic fog and the possibility that electromagnetic disturbances may produce a local time-space warp.  Indeed, Gernon described loss of time while he was within this fog.  A Russian physicist named Oleg Meshcheryakov has even recreated the phenomenon in a laboratory--although without finding the Starship Enterprise.  
The myth of the Bermuda Triangle would not be complete without aliens--this area has one of the highest rates of reported UFOs.  Many suggest that the Triangle is actually a portal to other planets, and others believe that the lost city of Atlantis resides within its boundaries.  Energy emitted from the submerged ruins of this alien society is suggested to produce a space/time rift that accounts for the disappearances.
Dr. Ray Brown, a naturopathic physician from Arizona, was on a diving expedition for submerged treasure near the Bahamas when he claimed to have found a crystal sphere within a sunken pyramid.  He had apparently become separated from his friends when he found an underwater cavern that opened into something resembling a board room with huge stone chairs.  In the center he saw a golden rod pointing to two metallic hands holding the sphere.  The following is taken from one of his interviews:
“The hands which the crystal sphere was held by had a bronze like color, the palms of the hands were golden like the rod/staff. But they were also black, like it had been burned either by fire or another kind of high energy. I was a little bit scared as I removed the sphere. If it could burn the metal, what then might it do to me? I grabbed it and nothing happened.”
Fearing confiscation by the U.S. Government, he didn’t tell his friends or anyone else about his find until he presented the sphere at a psychic conference in 1975.  Leonard Nimoy interviewed Dr. Brown and his famous crystal sphere for the TV show In Search of.

Supposedly the crystal is now kept in Sedona, Arizona by a new owner in a seawater bath and has been named The Atlantean Sphere.  Believers think it holds the key to entering the fourth dimension.
The Atlantean sphere--note the pyramid inside.  Some claim to see as many as 4 pyramids, which are said to correspond to each dimension.

I'm not convinced about Atlantis, although Leonard Nimoy and his mustache make a compelling argument.  I think I may know the subject for a future mythbusters.  For now, I think the Bermuda Triangle may still have a logical explanation.


  1. I think the Bermuda Triangle can be explained by one, or more, logical arguments; but it's much more exciting to think up fantastic mysteries :-)

  2. The Bermuda Triangle of Productivity sums up pretty much what I think of social media. Hehehehe!

    Very interesting info here.

  3. Fun (and informative) post!

    The Bermuda Triangle of Productivity..ha ha. My new excuse!

  4. 'Inexperienced sailors or pilots could possibly be confused in the triangle due to the changes caused by this alignment of true and magnetic north--but it’s doubtful a skilled navigator would be.'

    I may quote you on this, Julie.

  5. Ha ha The Bermuda Triangle of Productivity!
    Very thorough writeup of the Bermuda triangle. I learn so much here!

  6. I thought I knew a lot, but there was a ton of stuff in here I haven't heard before. So cool.

  7. Sarah--I thought this would make a heck of a location for a novel.

    Cherie--I got the biggest laugh out of that--sums up my entire life.

    Carrie--I'm blowing it up to poster size and putting it on my wall.

    Suze--I'd be pleased to have you quote me, lady!

    Kelly--I do too! I am becoming a vat of bizarre knowledge.

    Clutz--Thanks! I thought everything pointed to compass problems, but that's actually the least accepted theory.

  8. I've always enjoyed Bermuda Triangle stories!

    Flew over part of it once and the lady next to me said the rosary over and over the whole time. I don't know if it was divine intervention or not, but the compass never twitched :)

    Thanks for the fun!

  9. Oh my gosh, first mermaids and now this....another favorite subject of mine. When I was a child, the thought of the Bermuda Triangle fascinated and frightened me terribly. I used to have nightmares about it, yet I wanted to learn as much about it as possible. I had an encyclopedia and that was the extent of my research. I love all of the info, pics, humor and videos you add to your posts. They are awesome and I always feel so enlightened after reading them. :) And yes, someday, mermaids and coffee. We should invite Laila too, we could all dress up. :)

  10. Neptune's flatulence HAS to be the reason, seriously. I loved this! I haven't thought about the Bermuda Triangle in AGES, and it's just the sort of thing my kids would get a kick out of!

  11. Thanks for sharing Dr. Brown's interview. Neat stuff...

  12. Julie, great post - so informative and interesting.

    I remember as a teen, I was obsessed with the Bermuda Triangle. I thought about writing a novel taking place somewhere in there a while ago. Maybe one day I will :-)

  13. I always found the Bermuda Triangle fascinating. I wanted to get stuck in there. Maybe it was a wrinkle in the universe that would propel me into an alternate world. Secretly, I still entertain the occasional fantasy when I watch a movie or something on the Discovery channel. Till this day my husband refuses to go to Bermuds. :)

  14. Interesting. Your closing argument regarding productivity is most compelling... ;-)

  15. holy cow thats a lot of info on the Triangle!
    Very interesting indeed!

  16. Kel--I have to admit, I'd be pretty religious if I had to fly over the triangle, too.

    Heather--coffee in costumes? I'm totally in.

    Maggie--Neptune has to get his power from somewhere, right?

    Slamdunk--watching the whole thing was worth it just to listen to Spock

    Angela--I think it would be a great location for a novel

    Laila--when I read all the Atlantis stuff--like the Bimini Road that's there--I totally wanted to book a vacation there and scuba. I love Atlantis.

    Misha--the Bermuda Triangle of Productivity swallows me every day.

    Tara--Thanks! It floors me how much information there is out there on these things--you could write encyclopedias on it.

  17. Ocean flatulence...I buy that theory. Fun post :)

  18. Fantastic post! Personally, I'm going to keep my money on the theory that if old Neptune had some Beano, there would be no mystery anymore. Just a happy, low-methane god gut.

  19. Fabulous, Julie! I laughed out loud several places, and so hard at the last visual of the social media Bermuda Triangle. Thank you!! I love that part about true north and magnetic north, especially. Just to make it even more freaky, check out this article I read just this morning on the BBC News website: Now not even magnetization can save us.

  20. This is interesting stuff!

    I think there's a part of my house that's similar to the Bermuda Triangle...people often get lost there and don't return. The house is 225 years old, what can I say? ;)

  21. Very interesting post!

    I agree. I think there's probably a logical explanation for the Bermuda Triangle.

  22. When a post begins with lyrics from my favorite band, it promises something great. My wife was born and raised in Bermuda, we've discussed the Bermuda Triangle before. Here is a summary of that conversation:

    "So," I said. "What's the deal with the Bermuda Triangle?"

    One. Two. Three seconds of silence before she finally answers. "Are you stupid?"

    And that's about all she has to say on the subject. Glad you post stuff like this. I don't have the energy for the research.

  23. I've always been fascinated with the Bermuda Triangle. Great post! Gotta say you nailed it with the Bermuda Triangle of Productivity :D

  24. Angela--yep, that one makes the most sense to me. It all comes down to gas.

    Lydia--You have to wonder about stuff like that, even in the Gods. Although if I were a God, I think I might eliminate gas from the bodily function catalog.

    Linda--wow, what an article. In a way, I think the idea of an invisibility cloak is awesome--but then I think, what a potential for evil if it fell into the wrong hands!

    LB--that could be a story in and of itself!

    Golden Eagle--that must be your Spock side talking.

    Rusty--I do love some righteous Pantera shredding. There has to be more to that conversation, like "Are you stupid, it's pirates. Or, Are you stupid, it's aliens." Are you sure she heard the original question?

    Raelyn--I tell you, that is ringing true for my productivity more every day.

  25. "Bermuda Triangle,
    It makes people disappaer,
    Bermuda Triangle,
    Don't go too near"

    Gotta love Barry Manilow! I had to hum that to myself whilst reading. Loved your insight :-)

    Bet you're humming it now!

  26. You are a genius for working in farting and Johnny Depp into this post. haha BTW...cruised to bermuda and loved it.

  27. I love how different your thoughts are -- Bermuda shorts and the Bermuda triangle. Bahahahaha.
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  28. I'm still laughing over your great title which leads to "ocean flatulence"! You really do come up with the best topics! Julie

  29. now i've tagged you!
    come over and see =)

  30. i mean, you're on fire! i'm passing out 2 things today and i get confused easily!

  31. I've always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle, but like you, I think it has a logical/scientific explanation.

  32. Ever since I was a child I've been interested in the Bermuda Triangle and it's tragedies. Thank you for this informative post.

  33. Thank you for my laugh today. I saw your link from Clarissa's blog and had to come over since I am Bermudian and live here.

    Rusty, I totally get your wife's response.

    I think all of you need to get on a plane and enjoy the experience of flying into the Bermuda Triangle, have some Swizzle while your Facebooking, Twitter, Gmailing friends back home.

    hahaha - great post.

  34. YONKS--I actually had no idea Barry immortalized the Triangle in song. I could have had a soundtrack to this post.

    Copyboy--I amaze myself at the dichotomy of my subjects sometimes

    Bonnie--Thanks for visiting! I have always felt the Bermuda short was unfairly maligned.

    Empty Nest Insider--I think any time you can include flatulence in a blog post, you should definitely go for it.

    Tara--You are awesome! Thanks so much for the fiery love.

    Tara--I just think that when you think about what a vast area of ocean this covers it's easy to imagine something a little spooky happening out there--but I'm not quite convinced

    Medeia--It is a neat piece of history

    Marce--Very cool, an honest to goodness Bermudian who has not disappeared or been kidnapped by aliens or flatulent gods--at least not yet! Thanks for stopping by, glad you liked it.


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