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How the Bermuda Triangle Works


The S.S. Marine Sulpher Queen
Debris from the S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen
Debris from the S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen

The S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen was a tanker was bound for Norfolk, Virginia from Beaumont, Texas carrying 15,000 tons of molten sulphur in heated tanks. Its last communication took place on Feb. 3, 1963, when its captain radioed a routine position report. The message placed her near Key West in the Florida Straits. She never reached Virginia.

Three days after the position report, Coast Guard searchers found a single life jacket floating 40 miles southwest of the tanker's last known position. It's likely that leaking sulphur may have caused an explosion. Escaping sulphur gas could have poisoned the crew and prevented them from sending a distress call. Officers on a Honduran banana boat reported to the Coast Guard that their freighter ran into a strong, acrid odor 15 miles off Cape San Antonia, the western tip of Cuba, just before dawn on February 3.

The area was known for being infested with sharks and barracuda, so it wasn't surprising that no bodies were ever found. The U.S. Coast Guard History Archive lists the following items eventually found from the Sulphur Queen: two pieces of board bearing the name of the ship, eight life jackets (some with rips believed caused by sharks teeth), five life rings, one shirt, one piece of oar, one oil can, one gasoline can, one cone buoy and one fog horn.

The 440th Airlift Wing flew the Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar," nicknamed for its big cargo hold.
The 440th Airlift Wing flew the Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar," nicknamed for its big cargo hold.
Image courtesy Air Force Reserve Command

Milwaukee's 440th Airlift Wing, Plane 680, 1965

On a clear night in 1965, a seasoned flying crew from the Air Force Reserve Command's 440th Airlift Wing flew from Milwaukee on the heavily traveled Yankee Route, on their way to Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas. They landed as scheduled at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida at 5:04 p.m. and spent two hours and 43 minutes on the ground. Then they took off at 7:47 p.m. and headed south to the Bahamas, but never reached their destination.

There was no indication of trouble and all radio communication was routine. When they didn't land, radio traffic controllers started calling Plane 680 but didn't receive a response. Only a few scraps of debris were found, and those could have been tossed out of the cargo plane. Among those on board was an expert maintenance crew, so if there was a mechanical problem on the flight, there were plenty of people to take care of it. There was no explanation for the disappearance of Plane 680.