The Bermuda Triangle Mystery

Over the past 100 years, the Bermuda Triangle has seen what some say is a significant and inordinately high number of unexplained disappearances of planes, ships and people. Some reports say that as many as 100 ships and planes have been reported missing in the area and more than 1,000 lives have been lost. The U.S. Coast Guard, however, maintains that the area does not have an unusual number of incidents.

In 1975, Mary Margaret Fuller, editor of "Fate" magazine, contacted Lloyd's of London for statistics on insurance payoffs for incidents occurring within the Bermuda Triangle's usually accepted boundaries. According to Lloyd's records, 428 vessels were reported missing throughout the world between 1955 and 1975, and th­ere was no greater incidence of events occurring in the Bermuda Triangle than anywhere else in the world.

Gian J. Quasar, author of "Into the Bermuda Triangle: Pursuing the Truth Behind the World's Greatest Mystery" and curator of Bermuda-triangle.org, argues that this report "is completely false." Quasar reasons that because Lloyd's does not insure small crafts like yachts and often doesn't insure small charter boats or private aircraft, its records can't be the definitive source. He also states that the Coast Guard's records, which it publishes annually, do not include "missing vessels." He requested data on "overdue vessels" and received (after 12 years of asking) records of 300 missing/overdue vessels for the previous two years. Whether those vessels ultimately returned is unknown. His Web site has a list of these vessels.

The National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) database indicates (according to Gian J. Quasar) that only a handful of aircraft have disappeared off the New England coast over the past 10 years, while over 30 have occurred in the Bermuda Triangle.

The mystery of the Triangle probably took hold with the first well-publicized disappearance in 1945, when five Navy Avengers disappeared in the area. The cause of the disappearance was originally "pilot error," but family members of the pilot leading the mission couldn't accept that he had made such a mistake. Eventually they convinced the Navy to change it to "causes or reasons unknown."

The myth gained momentum after reporter E.V.W. Jones compiled a list of "mysterious disappearances" of ships and planes between the Florida coast and Bermuda. Two years later, George X. Sand wrote an article for "Fate" magazine, titled "Sea Mystery at our Back Door." The article was about a "series of strange marine disappearances, each leaving no trace whatever, that have taken place in the past few years" in a "watery triangle bounded roughly by Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico."

As more incidents occurred, the reputation grew and past events were reanalyzed and added to the legend. In 1964, "Argosy Magazine" gave the triangle its name in an article titled "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle" by Vincent Gaddis. Argosy magazine's tagline a "magazine of master fiction," but that did nothing to halt the spread of the myth. More articles, books, and movies have appeared, suggesting theories ranging from alien abductions to a giant octopus.

Next, we'll look at some early well-known incidents that have been attributed to the area.