What is the Burmuda Triangle? Is it real?
Bermuda Triangle Fact Sheet
Prepared by the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters and the Naval Historical Center
The U. S. Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name and does not maintain an official file on the area.
The “Bermuda or Devil’s Triangle” is an imaginary area located off the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States, which is noted for a high incidence of unexplained losses of ships, small boats, and aircraft. The apexes of the triangle are generally accepted to be Bermuda, Miami, Fla., and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In the past, extensive, but futile Coast Guard searches prompted by search and rescue cases such as the disappearance of a flight of five TBM Avengers shortly after take off from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., or the traceless sinking of USS Cyclops and Marine Sulphur Queen have lent credence to the popular belief in the mystery and the supernatural qualities of the “Bermuda Triangle.”
Countless theories attempting to explain the many disappearances have been offered throughout the history of the area. The most practical seem to be environmental and those citing human error. The majority of disappearances can be attributed to the area’s unique environmental features. First, the “Devil’s Triangle” is one of the two places on earth that a magnetic compass does point towards true north. Normally it points toward magnetic north. The difference between the two is known as compass variation. The amount of variation changes by as much as 20 degrees as one circumnavigates the earth. If this compass variation or error is not compensated for, a navigator could find himself far off course and in deep trouble.
An area called the “Devil’s Sea” by Japanese and Filipino seamen, located off the east coast of Japan, also exhibits the same magnetic characteristics. It is also known for its mysterious disappearances.
Another environmental factor is the character of the Gulf Stream. It is extremely swift and turbulent and can quickly erase any evidence of a disaster. The unpredictable Caribbean-Atlantic weather pattern also plays its role. Sudden local thunder storms and water spouts often spell disaster for pilots and mariners. Finally, the topography of the ocean floor varies from extensive shoals around the islands to some of the deepest marine trenches in the world. With the interaction of the strong currents over the many reefs the topography is in a state of constant flux and development of new navigational hazards is swift.
Not to be under estimated is the human error factor. A large number of pleasure boats travel the waters between Florida’s Gold Coast and the Bahamas. All too often, crossings are attempted with too small a boat, insufficient knowledge of the area’s hazards, and a lack of good seamanship.
The Coast Guard is not impressed with supernatural explanations of disasters at sea. It has been their experience that the combined forces of nature and unpredictability of mankind outdo even the most far fetched science fiction many times each year.
We know of no maps that delineate the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle. However, there are general area maps available through the Distribution Control Department, U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office, Washington, D.C. 20390. Of particular interest to students if mysterious happenings may be the “Aeromagnetic Charts of the U.S. Coastal Region,” H.O. Series 17507, 15 sheets. Numbers 9 through 15 cover the “Bermuda Triangle.”
Interest in the “Bermuda Triangle” can be traced to (1) the cover article in the August 1968 Argosy, “The Spreading Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle”, (2) the answer to a letter to the editor of the January 1969 Playboy, and (3) an article in August 4, 1968 I, “Limbo of Lost Ships”, by Leslie Lieber. Also, many newspapers carried a December 22, 1967 National Geographic Society news release which was derived largely from Vincent Gaddis’ Invisible Horizons: True Mysteries of the Sea (Chilton Books, Philadelphia, 1965. OCLC# 681276) Chapter 13, “The Triangle of Death”, in Mr. Gaddis’ book, presents the most comprehensive account of the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. Gaddis describes nine of the more intriguing mysteries and provides copious notes and references. Much of the chapter is reprinted from an article by Mr. Gaddis, “The Deadly Bermuda Triangle”, in the February 1964 Argosy. The article elicited a large and enthusiastic response from the magazine’s readers. Perhaps the most interesting letter, which appeared in the May 1964 Argosy’s “Back Talk” section, recounts a mysterious and frightening incident in an aircraft flying over the area in 1944.
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