How the Bermuda Triangle Works

Well-known Bermuda Triangle Disappearances
A Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber, similar to the Flight 19 ones that disappeared in 1945, is shown. Bernard Spragg/CC0 1.0

Here are two of the most notable incidents connected with the Bermuda Triangle. As you'll see, they have reasonable explanations for their disappearances although they're still attributed to the strange and unknown powers of the Triangle.

The U.S.S. Cyclops, 1918

In the spring of 1918, the U.S.S. Cyclops — a 540-foot- (164-meter-) long naval vessel outfitted with 50-caliber guns — took on a load of 10,000 tons (9,072 metric tons) of manganese ore in Brazil, and then sailed north to Barbados, where it was resupplied for its nine-day voyage to Baltimore harbor. But after leaving Barbados, the ship and its 309 men were never seen nor heard from again. Navy cruisers searched the ocean, but saw no sign of the ship, not even an oil slick, and the Navy eventually declared the crew lost at sea. It was the greatest loss of life in a non-combat situation in U.S. Naval history. While the ship's fate has never been officially resolved, Marvin Barrash, a researcher who is a descendant of one of the lost crewmembers told the Washington Post that he believes a combination of events — a ship unbalanced by a very heavy load, engine breakdowns, and a big wave that struck the vessel — sent it to the bottom of the Puerto Rico Trench. This trench is the deepest part of the Atlantic, which would explain why the ship never has been found [source: Prudente].

U.S. Navy Avengers Flight 19, 1945

The story of Flight 19 is the best-known of the Bermuda Triangle disappearances. Five Avenger torpedo bombers took off from the U.S. Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale in the afternoon on Dec. 5, 1945. It was a routine exercise, in which they were to fly 150 miles (241 kilometers) due east, then north for 40 miles (64 kilometers), and then return to the base. All five pilots were experienced aviators, and the planes had been checked out mechanically prior to takeoff. Nevertheless, an hour and 45 minutes after takeoff, the Fort Lauderdale tower got a call from the flight leader, Charles Taylor, who sounded confused and said that he couldn't see land. "We cannot be sure of where we are," he explained. Radio contact was lost until 10 minutes later, when other crew members' voices could be heard, sounding similarly disoriented. Twenty minutes after that, another pilot came on again. "It looks like we are entering white water...we're completely lost," he said. After that, there was only silence. Within minutes, a Mariner seaplane and a 13-man crew were sent out to the Avengers' last-known position — only to vanish as well. For five days, the Navy searched for the lost aircraft, covering almost 250,000 square miles (647,497 square kilometers) of the Atlantic, and found no trace of them [source: McDonnell].

This account conveniently leaves out some details that would explain why Flight 19 went down. Four of the pilots were actually students who were flying to get experience. The instructor, Taylor, for some unknown reason, had asked to be relieved of his duties before takeoff, but the request was denied. Taylor also radioed that the compasses had failed. But in reality, he likely was not trusting them as he thought he was over the Florida Keys when he was actually over the Bahamas — the opposite direction. This was actually the third flight where Taylor had gotten lost. Naval experts believe the plane ran out of fuel and crashed. As for the search plane, the Mariner, a search ship saw it explode in the sky. The sea was so rough that day, no trace of it was found [sources: McDonnell, Kusche].

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