10 Disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle

The ruins of an old ship.
The Bermuda Triangle is featured in many conspiracy theories. Is there really anything to fear?

The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's Triangle, is an infamous stretch of the Atlantic Ocean bordered by the southern coast of the U.S., Bermuda, and the Greater Antilles that has been the location of strange disappearances of ships and aircraft since the mid-19th century. Could supernatural forces be responsible for these occurrences? Some probable explanations for the missing vessels include hurricanes, undersea earthquakes and magnetic fields that interfere with compasses and other positioning devices. But it's much more interesting to think the disappearing vessels were drawn into another dimension, swept away by aliens or simply vanished into thin air.

Dozens of ships and planes have vanished into the Bermuda Triangle, many without leaving a trace. Read on to learn about 10 ill-fated journeys that never returned from the mysterious Bermuda Triangle.


10: The Spray

Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail solo around the world in 1895, was considered one of the best sailors of his time. His boat, the Spray, was an old fishing boat that he had rebuilt, and the story of his circumnavigation, "Sailing Alone around the World", remains a classic in sea literature. He never should have been lost at sea, but it appears that's exactly what happened. In 1909, Slocum left the East Coast of the United States and headed to Grand Cayman for the winter. Slocum was never heard from or seen again. He wasn't declared legally dead until 1924. No one knows for sure that Slocum disappeared within Triangle waters, but Bermuda buffs claim Slocum's story as part of the legacy of the Devil's Triangle.


9: Teignmouth Electron

The Teignmouth Electron, after being found lost at sea in July 1969.
The Teignmouth Electron, after being found lost at sea in July 1969.
Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If Bermuda Triangle swallows up ships and planes, could it also make a man go mad? Perhaps that's what happened on the Teignmouth Electron in 1969. Businessman Donald Crowhurst set sail from London on October 31, 1968 in a triple-hulled boat design featuring his own safety innovations and grand intentions to win the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, an event that requires each contestant to sail solo around the world. A relatively inexperienced sailor, Crowhurst obtained the backing of a demanding investor and hired an aggressive publicist. With his fortune and pride riding on a successful voyage, Crowhurst got off to a slow start and his boat was plagued with problems, and he considered turning back. Instead, he reported incredible times and progress to his publicist while floating around in the Atlantic. When Crowhurst began his journey home, he found out his closest competitor had sunk. Fearing that the truth about his deceptions would be discovered, Crowhurst apparently jumped overboard with his fraudulent logbook and drowned himself. The Electron was found abandoned in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle in July 1969, with the last entry of his accurate logbook dated June 29.


8: Star Tiger

On January 30, 1948, a British South American Airways Tudor IV plane flying from England to Bermuda disappeared without a trace. The Star Tiger, commanded by Capt. B. W. McMillan, was flying from England to Bermuda. On January 30, McMillan reported he expected to arrive in Bermuda at 5:00 a.m., but neither he nor any of the 31 people onboard the Star Tiger were ever heard from again. The official accident report suggests that the aircraft's heater was unreliable and may have failed en route and a compass was at fault. To keep the temperatures warmer, the pilot may have chosen to fly the route at a lower altitude, burning fuel faster. Flying so low would have left the pilot little time to maneuver or signal for help in the case of a catastrophe; the flight would have lost its height quickly and fallen into the sea.


7: Star Ariel

A British South American Airways plane.
A British South American Airways plane, like the ill-fated Star Tiger and Star Ariel, prepared to leave Heathrow Airport for the first time, in 1946.
Fred Morley/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A Tudor IV aircraft, like the Star Tiger, left Bermuda on January 17, 1949, with seven crew members and 13 passengers en route to Jamaica. That morning, Capt. J. C. McPhee reported that the flight was going smoothly. Shortly afterward, another more cryptic message came from the captain, when he reported that he was changing his frequency, and then nothing more was heard. A search party was deployed to look for the Star Ariel, but not even a hint of debris or wreckage was ever found. After the Ariel disappeared, British South American Airways stopped production on the Tudor IV.


6: USS Cyclops

During World War I, the USS Cyclops, commanded by Lt. G. W. Worley, carried coal for the U.S. Navy and stayed mostly on the East Coast of the United States until 1918 when it was sent to Brazil to refuel Allied ships. With 309 people onboard, the ship left Rio de Janeiro in February and reached Barbados in March. After that, the Cyclops was never heard from again. The Navy says in its official statement, "The disappearance of this ship has been one of the most baffling mysteries in the annals of the Navy, all attempts to locate her having proved unsuccessful. There were no enemy submarines in the western Atlantic at that time, and in December 1918 every effort was made to obtain from German sources information regarding the disappearance of the vessel." This tragedy stands as the single largest loss of life in U.S. Naval history not involving combat.


5: Flight 201

Bimini Island.
Bimini Island, intended destination for the ill-fated Flight 201.
Frans Lemmens/Getty Images

This Cessna left Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on March 31, 1984, en route for Bimini Island in the Bahamas, but it never made it. The passengers were all Cessna employees, including the pilot and co-pilots. Despite the experience of the crew, something went wrong. Not quite midway to its destination, the plane slowed its airspeed significantly, but no radio signals were made from the plane to indicate distress. Suddenly, the plane dropped from the air into the water, completely vanishing from the radar. A woman on Bimini Island reported seeing a plane plunge into the sea about a mile (1.61 kilometers) offshore, but no wreckage has ever been found.


4: Piper Navajo

On November 3, 1978, Irving Rivers left St. Croix (part of the U.S. Virgin Islands) in a Piper Navajo he was piloting for Eastern Caribbean Airways. The experienced pilot was making a solo flight to position the plane in St. Thomas to pick up passengers. Visibility was good and temperatures were warm. During the flight, the control tower operator radioed a flight suggestion to avoid a small shower, and Rivers radioed his acknowledgment and made the adjustment. As he neared the airport in St. Thomas, the plane was cleared for landing and the controller saw the plane's red and green lights blinking as it made the approach. Soon after another plane made a planned departure, the controller found he could no longer see the plane's lights -- it had disappeared from the radar. An emergency search effort was launched, but nothing was ever found -- even though the flight was only one mile (1.61 kilometers) from landing.


3: SS Marine Sulphur Queen

Molten sulphur being prepared for transport in Indonesia.
Molten sulphur -- the substance the SS Marine Sulphur Queen was carrying when it vanished -- being prepared for transport in Indonesia.
Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images

A tanker carrying a load of molten sulphur, the SS Marine Sulphur Queen, disappeared off the southern coast of Florida in February 1963. As a result, the wreckage and 39-member crew were lost without a trace. According to the U.S. Coast Guard's investigation, the ship was in questionable condition and probably wasn't seaworthy to start: Fires were commonplace and the ship was known to have a "weak back," meaning that the keel was likely to split when weakened by corrosion. When the ship was converted from its original purpose as an oil tanker to carry molten sulphur, a high center of gravity resulted that might have caused the vessel to capsize. No one knows for certain what happened to the Sulphur Queen, but its demise was probably a result of its poor condition rather than a mysterious force.


2: DC-3 Airliner NC16002

An Airborne Transport DC-3 airliner carrying 29 passengers and three crew members disappeared near the end of a scheduled flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Miami, Fla. on December 28, 1948. Pilot Robert Linquist had told local repair crew that a landing gear warning light was not functioning and the aircraft batteries were discharged, but he was unwilling to delay the scheduled takeoff for repairs. Air traffic controllers in Miami heard transmissions from the flight during the night, including a report that the flight was 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Miami. Since the transmission was reported from New Orleans, it is possible that the aircraft may have drifted off course. Nothing else was heard from the doomed flight, and the aircraft has never been found.


1: Flight 19

The Florida Keys.
The Florida Keys, last known destination of the doomed Flight 19.
Zephyr Picture/Getty Images

On the afternoon of December 5, 1945, five Avenger torpedo bombers left the Naval Air Station at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with Lt. Charles Taylor in command of a crew of 13 student pilots. About an hour and a half into the flight, Taylor radioed the base to say that his compasses weren't working, but he estimated he was somewhere over the Florida Keys. The lieutenant who received the signal told Taylor to fly north toward Miami, as long as he was sure he was actually over the Keys. Although he was an experienced pilot, Taylor got horribly turned around, and the more he tried to get out of the Keys, the further out to sea he and his crew traveled.

As night fell, the reception of radio signals worsened, until, finally, there was nothing at all from Flight 19. A U.S. Navy investigation reported that Taylor's confusion caused the disaster, but his mother convinced them to change the official report to read that the planes went down for "causes unknown." The planes have never been recovered.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • BBC News. "Bermuda Triangle plane mystery solved." September 13, 2009. (Accessed Jan. 12, 2012.) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8248334.stm.
  • Bermuda-Triangle.org. "Oddities and enigmas." (Accessed Jan. 12, 2012.) http://www.bermuda-triangle.org/html/oddities___enigmas.html.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica Online. "Joshua Slocum." http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/548908/Joshua-Slocum.
  • The Independent (UK). "Drama on the waves: The Life and Death of Donald Crowhurst.". October 28, 2006. (Accessed Jan. 12, 2012.) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/drama-on-the-waves-the-life-and-death-of-donald-crowhurst-421934.html.
  • Previously on this Day. "December 28, 1948: The Disappearance of DC Airliner NC16002." (Accessed Jan. 12, 2012.) http://www.previouslyon.co.uk/december-28-1948-the-disappearance-of-dc-3-airliner-nc16002-242.html.
  • Time. "Investigations: The Queen with the Weak Back." March 8, 1963. (Accessed Jan. 12, 2012.) http://www.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,896573,00.html.
  • UnMuseum.org. "The Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle." (Accessed Jan. 12, 2012.) http://www.unmuseum.org/triangle.htm.