The Geography of the Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle (also known as The Devils’ Triangle and The Deadly Triangle) is an imaginary area of the Atlantic Ocean whose three defining points include Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico and which is alleged to be the site of the disappearance of an inordinate number of aircraft and nautical vessels. However, the definition of the “triangle,” the number of disappearances within its boundary, and the purported causes of those disappearances vary wildly. Depending upon which account you read, the size of the Bermuda Triangle ranges from 500,000 square miles to 1,500,000 square miles (some accounts include the Gulf of Mexico, the Azores, and the West Indies), the number of disappearances is claimed to be as high as 2000 vessels and 75 aircraft in the last 500 years, and the supposed causes of these disappearances range from hostile visitations by aliens and lethal technology from “the lost world” of Atlantis to vindictive “sea monsters” and nefarious research by the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), the American naval base on the Bahamas island of Andros.

“The earliest allegation of unusual disappearances in the Bermuda area appeared in a September 16, 1950 Associated Press article by Edward Van Winkle Jones. Two years later, Fate magazine published “Sea Mystery At Our Back Door”, a short article by George X. Sand covering the loss of several planes and ships, including the loss of Flight 19, a group of five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger bombers on a training mission. Sand’s article was the first to lay out the now-familiar triangular area where the losses took place. Flight 19 alone would be covered in the April 1962 issue of American Legion Magazine (“The Mystery of the Lost Patrol” by Allan W. Eckert). It was claimed that the flight leader had been heard saying ‘we are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don’t know where we are, the water is green, no white.’ It was also claimed that officials at the Navy board of inquiry stated that the planes ‘flew off to Mars.’ Sand’s article was the first to suggest a supernatural element to the Flight 19 incident. In the February 1964 issue of Argosy (subtitled “Magazine of Masterpiece Fiction”), Vincent Gaddis’s article “The Deadly Bermuda Triangle” argued that Flight 19 and other disappearances were part of a pattern of strange events in the region. The next year, Gaddis expanded this article into a book, Invisible Horizons. Others would follow with their own works, elaborating on Gaddis’s ideas: John Wallace Spencer (Limbo of the Lost, 1969, repr. 1973); Charles Berlitz (The Bermuda Triangle, 1974); Richard Winer (The Devil’s Triangle, 1974), and many others, all keeping to some of the same supernatural elements outlined by Eckert” (source).

You know the old adage, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” It turns out that the Bermuda Triangle is no more statistically dangerous than any other area of the open ocean, and documented evidence indicates that a large number of the “mysterious” incidents were inaccurately reported or embellished and that many of the “incidents” did not occur or occurred outside of the so-called triangle: “The marine insurer Lloyd’s of London has determined the Triangle to be no more dangerous than any other area of ocean, and does not charge unusual rates for passage through the region. United States Coast Guard records confirm their conclusion. In fact, the number of supposed disappearances is relatively insignificant, considering the number of ships and aircraft which pass through on a regular basis…The NOVA / Horizon episode The Case of the Bermuda Triangle (June 27, 2006) was highly critical, stating that ‘When we’ve gone back to the original sources or the people involved, the mystery evaporates. Science does not have to answer questions about the Triangle because those questions are not valid in the first place…Ships and planes behave in the Triangle the same way they behave everywhere else in the world’” (source).

Myth, mystery, and miracle make for good press, and bad news certainly outsells good news – after all, Milton’s Paradise Lost is much more of a thriller-diller than Paradise Regained. The real mystery about the Bermuda Triangle isn’t that much of a mystery – our love/hate obsession with the unknown is what defines us.

“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” (John Lennon)

Article by Bill Norrinton



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Classic borders of the Bermuda Triangle (Wikipedia, Bermuda Triangle)

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The size of the triangle varies from 500,000 square miles to three times that size, depending on the imagination of the author. The area is one of the most heavily traveled shipping lanes in the world, with ships crossing through it daily for ports in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean Islands. Cruise ships are also plentiful, and pleasure craft regularly go back and forth between Florida and the islands. It is also a heavily flown route for commercial and private aircraft heading towards Florida, the Caribbean, and South America from points north (Wikipedia, Ibid.)

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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). The US Navy blamed the loss of Flight 19 on pilot error by US Navy Lieutenant Charles Carroll Taylor; sensationalists attributed the loss of Flight 19 to unexplained forces, despite lack of evidence supporting their claims.

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Charles Berlitz’s 1974 bestselling book, The Bermuda Triangle, sold over 5,000,000 copies in hardback and was made into a movie in 1979. Triangle writers have used a number of supernatural concepts to explain the events. One explanation pins the blame on leftover technology from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis. Other writers attribute the events to UFOs. This idea was used by Steven Spielberg for his science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which features the lost Flight 19 aircrews as alien abductees (Wikipedia, Ibid.)