The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's Triangle, is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean in which a number of aircraft and surface vessels are alleged to have mysteriously disappeared in a manner that cannot be explained by human error, piracy, equipment failure, or natural disasters. Popular culture has attributed these disappearances to the paranormal, a suspension of the laws of physics, or activity by extraterrestrial beings.
While a substantial body of documentation reveals that a significant portion of the allegedly mysterious incidents have been inaccurately reported or embellished by later authors, claims by official agencies, stating that the number and nature of disappearances in the region is similar to that in any other area of ocean, have been directly challenged by the investigations of several private researchers.
[Pictured left: US Navy TBF Grumman Avenger flight, similar to Flight 19. This photo had been used by various Triangle authors to illustrate Flight 19 itself. (US Navy)]
Flight 19 was a training flight of TBM Avenger bombers that went missing on December 5, 1945 while over the Atlantic. The squadron's flight path was scheduled to take them due east for 120 miles, north for 73 miles, and then back over a final 120-mile leg that would return them to the naval base, but they never returned. The impression is given that the flight encountered unusual phenomena and anomalous compass readings, and that the flight took place on a calm day under the supervision of an experienced pilot, Lt. Charles Carroll Taylor. Adding to the intrigue is that the Navy's report of the accident was ascribed to "causes or reasons unknown." It is believed that Taylor's mother wanted to save her son's reputation, so she made them write "reasons unknown" when actually Taylor was 50 km NW from where he thought he was.
Adding to the mystery, a search and rescue Mariner aircraft with a 13-man crew was dispatched to aid the missing squadron, but the Mariner itself was never heard from again. Later, there was a report from a tanker cruising off the coast of Florida of a visible explosion at about the time the Mariner would have been on patrol.
While the basic facts of this version of the story are essentially accurate, some important details are missing. The weather was becoming stormy by the end of the incident, and naval reports and written recordings of the conversations between Taylor and the other pilots of Flight 19 do not indicate magnetic problems.
The mysterious abandonment in 1872 of the 282-ton brigantine Mary Celeste is often but inaccurately connected to the Triangle, the ship having been abandoned off the coast of Portugal. The event is possibly confused with the loss of a ship with a similar name, the Mari Celeste, a 207-ton paddle steamer that hit a reef and quickly sank off the coast of Bermuda on September 13, 1864. Kusche noted that many of the "facts" about this incident were actually about the Marie Celeste, the fictional ship from Arthur Conon Doyle's short story "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" (based on the real Mary Celeste incident, but fictionalised).
The Ellen Austin supposedly came across a derelict ship, placed on board a prize crew, and attempted to sail with it to New York in 1881. According to the stories, the derelict disappeared; others elaborating further that the derelict reappeared minus the prize crew, then disappeared again with a second prize crew on board. A check from Lloyd's of London records proved the existence of the Meta, built in 1854 and that in 1880 the Meta was renamed Ellen Austin. There are no casualty listings for this vessel, or any vessel at that time, that would suggest a large number of missing men were placed on board a derelict that later disappeared.
The incident resulting in the single largest loss of life in the history of the US Navy not related to combat occurred when USS Cyclops, under the command of Lt Cdr G. W. Worley, went missing without a trace with a crew of 309 sometime after March 4, 1918, after departing the island of Barbados. Although there is no strong evidence for any single theory, many independent theories exist, some blaming storms, some capsizing, and some suggesting that wartime enemy activity was to blame for the loss.
Theodosia Burr Alston
Theodosia Burr Alston was the daughter of former United States Vice President Aaron Burr. Her disappearance has been cited at least once in relation to the Triangle. She was a passenger on board the Patriot, which sailed from Charleston, South Carolina to New York City on December 30, 1812, and was never heard from again. The planned route is well outside all but the most extended versions of the Bermuda Triangle. Both piracy and the War of 1812 have been posited as explanations, as well as a theory placing her in Texas, well outside the Triangle.
S.V. Spray was a derelict fishing boat refitted as an ocean cruiser by Joshua Slocum and used by him to complete the first ever single-handed circumnavigation of the world, between 1895 and 1898.
In 1909, Slocum set sail from Vineyard Haven bound for Venezuela. Neither he or Spray were ever seen again. There is no evidence they were in the Bermuda Triangle when they disappeared, nor is there any evidence of paranormal activity. The boat was considered in poor condition and a hard boat to handle that Slocum's skill usually overcame.