1. “A small wax candle that rose and lifted up”
On October 11, 1492, an Italian explorer sailing under the Spanish flag saw a light over the horizon that he described as, “a small wax candle that rose and lifted up.” It was late in the evening when it was spotted, and a quarter moon hung dimly in the sky as the light glowed in the distance.
The captain of the voyage didn’t know he was close to land, though those aboard the three ships agree it couldn’t have been a fire from a nearby island. Bioluminescence has also been ruled out as a theory, and only when the captain’s location is known does it become consistent with other rare occurrences that have happened in the Bermuda Triangle.
2. Christopher Columbus
The captain of that boat was Christopher Columbus. His son’s journal survives to tell us of the strange light on the horizon. What is also known is that during his voyage, Columbus’s compass began giving odd and inconsistent readings when they got close to North America.
It wasn’t known then, and over time has since become the source of many legends, facts, and folklore — that the area from the Southern tip of Bermuda, to the Southeastern tip of Florida, to the Northwestern point in Puerto Rico, has been a geographic triangle-shaped area in the Atlantic ocean of several inexplicable ship and plane wrecks, disappearances, and crashes.
3. Shipwreck capital of the world
Columbus’s first journey landed him on the Plana Cays, which are along the sting of islands that make up the Bahamas. Since then, the shipping lanes that pass through this area have become main avenues for trade and travel. Also since then, the waters surrounding Bermuda have become the shipwreck capital of the world.
While that fact is credited to the powerful Gulf Stream that bring ships close to shallow waters in the area, and many of those wrecks can be visited by scuba divers, an unprecedented amount vanished without a trace, inexplicably leaving little evidence of what actually happened.
4. Trouble from the get go
Even the first European explorers in the area shipwrecked upon arrival. In July 1609, three ships sailing under the English flag and chartered by the Virginia Company entered a hurricane off the coast of Bermuda. The storm separated the ships, which the sank in various locations in the waters around the island.
The 150-man crew of the flagship Sea Venture managed to abandon ship and salvage a good portion of their supplies from the sunken ships. The original intent of their voyage was that they were going to help and resupply the new fledgling colony of Jamestown in Virginia, but instead they became Bermuda’s first inhabitants.
5. “The Tempest”
For 10 months, the crew was presumed dead by both the Virginia Company and Jamestown. But the men were resilient. Knowing that there would be no relief mission, they set their efforts toward building two ships. The results were the aptly named Patience and Deliverance. Both ships sailed the following spring and found Jamestown, Virginia.
The story captivated the people of England, and even inspired William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” which was the last major play he wrote. Most of the stranded men took part in the voyage to Virginia, but others stayed behind, and a subsequent mission by the Virginia Company saw the first permanent settlement on the island.
6. USS Epervier
It’s fitting that civilization on Bermuda was born out of a shipwreck, given its history since the Sea Venture incident. The next ship the triangle swallowed is more like the wrecks that would come to follow, in that no one knows what happened to the USS Epervier and her crew.
In 1814, while the United States was locked in the jaws of war with Great Britain, British vessel HMS Epervier, which was operating in close proximity to the triangle, was captured by the American Navy. Being that it was a perfectly good vessel, was then converted for service under the stars and stripes.
7. The Dey of Algeria
During the course of the war, raiders from North Africa harassed US shipping in the Mediterranean Sea, until the US Navy made them pay dearly by helping destroy a heavy ship, then capturing another. The Dey of Algeria was forced to negotiate for peace, and the Epervier was tasked with carrying the subsequent treaty back to the United States.
On July 14, 1815 Epervier set sail with her 134-man crew for the United States. This was the last time they were ever seen. Reports say a hurricane hit the area around the Bermuda triangle on August 9th, which would’ve been there location around that time. While historians can speculate as to the ship and crews’ final fate, what is known is that not a trace of the ship or crew has ever been found.
8. Ghost ships
This seems to be the fundamental problem with the Bermuda triangle that other high wreckage areas do not share: nobody knows what happened. Wreckages and crashes, even in the world’s vast oceans, normally leave behind some traces of disaster. But the Bermuda triangle has the habit of swallowing them whole.
Incidents of derelict ships, or “ghost ships” are a dime a dozen in the Bermuda triangle, but a couple of the next occurrences should officially be filed under debunked. Case and point: the James B. Cheston, which was eerily found sailing by itself without a crew off the coast of Portugal.
9. Mary Celeste
Many Bermuda triangle enthusiasts point to the James B. Cheston incident but fail to realize that the captain and members of the crew were recovered and charged with barratry (meaning they likely tried to sabotage the ship). The same goes for the Mary Celeste, who was also found floating in the Atlantic without a crew.
The Mary Celeste was found abandoned with 3 ½ feet of water in the hull and two of three bilge pumps failed. The only lifeboat on the ship was missing. While it cannot be confirmed because the crew was never found, it is likely the ship appeared to be sinking and the crew abandoned ship, never to be seen again.
10. The missing crew of the Ellen Austin
There are so many other mysteries that surround the Bermuda triangle that are far more baffling than these cases. Other ships’ stories have far fewer answers, as in the instance of an unnamed and unmanned ship that was found sailing at speed west toward New York.
In 1881 the Ellen Austin was bound for New York when it entered the Bermuda triangle, and found a ship sailing in the open ocean. After observing the ship for awhile, it was evident that it was moving about erratically. There was no one on the deck of the ship to hail, so the captain of Ellen Austin sent a party over to the mystery ship.
11. Lost again
The party confirmed the unthinkable: not a single soul was aboard the ship. The captain of the Ellen Austin ordered the party to take control of the ship and sail it back to New York alongside his ship. Two days later, a massive storm hit them while on the high seas and they became separated.
One report after the fact said that the Ellen Austin found the ghost ship again, but the party manning it disappeared. While that report is not substantiated, most agree that the ghost ship, devoid of its original crew, and operated by a skilled skeleton crew, got lost twice in the Bermuda triangle and were never seen again.
12. Joshua Slocum
Some of the most skilled mariners have tempted fate by sailing in the waters of the Bermuda triangle, and that list includes the first man to circumnavigate the globe by himself. Joshua Slocum achieved this triumph between the years of 1895–1898 and was considered one of the most able seamen in the world.
In 1909 Slocum set sail aboard the S.V. Spray (the ship he sailed around the world in) from a port near Martha’s Vineyard on his way to Venezuela. One of the most experienced sailors in the world, aboard a boat proven to withstand the dangers of the sea, was never seen again.
13. The disappearance of the USS Cyclops and its 300-person crew
These early accounts leave much to the imagination, and the allure and mystery of the dangers in the Bermuda triangle had yet to captivate the masses. That didn’t happen until later, and the disappearance of the USS Cyclops was the incident that changed the public’s perception of the mysterious area.
On March 9, 1918 the United States had been at war in Europe for nearly a year and were ferrying massive amounts of men and wartime supplies across the Atlantic. The USS Cyclops was en route to Baltimore, Maryland after embarking from Brazil where it was seen for the last time.
14. “Only God and the sea know”
Reports indicate that a storm formed near the Virginia Straights, which is a bit farther north than the Cyclops was charted. But no one knows what happened to the Cyclops on March 10, 1918, because none of her 10,800 tons of cargo or 306-man crew were ever seen again.
The reported storm created swells that would not have bothered the 20,000-ton ship, and because the wreckage and crew were never recovered, we’ll never know. Perhaps President Woodrow Wilson characterized it best when he said, “Only God and the sea know what happened to the great ship.”
15. USS Proteus
The Cyclops remains the worst maritime, non-combat related (even though the US was at war with Germany, no U-boat captain claimed responsibility) disaster in US naval history. The story of the Cyclops gets even weirder when it comes to the fate of its sister ships.
On November 23, 1941 the USS Proteus carried a similar compliment of men and cargo as the Cyclops when she was lost to the sea forever. Reports indicate the ship may have strayed off course and found itself in the Bermuda triangle. Again, none of her crew (158 men) or cargo were ever seen again.
16. USS Nereus
Just one month later, the USS Nereus was following the exact same shipping lane as the Cyclops while ferrying ore and 236 men. Just like the Cyclops, after she entered the Bermuda triangle, not a trace of her was ever seen or heard from again.
The US Navy rigorously investigated the loss of the three ships, and their conclusions are decidedly inconclusive. While some suggest the ships suffered the same engineering flaw in the erosion of their I-beam, none can account for the fact that the ships operated all over the world and yet suffered the same fate in the relatively small expanse of the Bermuda triangle.
17. Carroll A. Deering
The Bermuda triangle’s location screams of bad and erratic weather. Hurricanes have been rocking the area in and around the Caribbean Sea for millennia. But it’s interesting that the unnamed, unmanned boat tracked by the Ellen Austin, the Spray, and Cyclops are all thought to have encountered a storm, yet none of them sailed during hurricane season and none were recorded to have occurred during their failed voyages.
A similar claim was made in 1921 when the 2,000-ton Carroll A. Deering was found wrecked, but still intact, and without her crew after passing through the Bermuda triangle. However, weather was most certainly not a factor in the most famous disappearance in the “devil’s triangle.”
18. The disappearance of Flight 19
Up to this point, all disasters have occurred via ship at sea, but the dawn of the airplane and jet age would show the world that the power of the Bermuda triangle extends beyond the surface of the sea. This leads us to the case of Flight 19, whose fate remains a mystery to this day.
On December 5, 1945 a flight of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers took off from Florida and headed into the Bermuda triangle. This was a training mission conducted just months after the conclusion of WWII, and the three-man crews of the planes were to practice bombing runs on a course that took them out to sea.
19. A malfunctioning compass
The flight took off at 2:10 p.m., and the flight dropped their bombs on targets in the Hens and Chicken Shoals (you read that right) about 20 minutes later. Then, the commander of the flight, Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor, began reporting that his compass was malfunctioning.
Lieutenant Taylor steered his flight northeast, toward the open sea, which was a recipe for disaster. Pilots in the area were instructed that if lost, fly west toward the setting sun. Even though Taylor was new to the area, he was an experienced combat veteran and was convinced he was somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.
20. Send a search party for the search party
Had Flight 19 been in the Gulf of Mexico, flying northeast might’ve got them back to Florida. But because they were out to sea, and both his compasses were malfunctioning, he kept flying farther into the Atlantic. Shortly after 7:00 p.m. the flight lost contact and were never seen or heard from again.
Two Martin PBM Mariners were sent to look for the lost flight just minutes after final contact. The planes were meant to intersect each other’s path where they believed Flight 19 might be lost. Instead, only one of the search planes made it, and the other PBM Mariner was forever lost to the Bermuda triangle.
Two years later, a four engine C-54 aircraft encountered a hurricane and became so disoriented that it flew right into the eye of the storm. While Flight 19 and the C-54 seem to have ultimately succumbed to explainable fates, the reason for their loss is rooted in navigational that have been glitches recorded across vessels since the days of Columbus.
The US Navy’s official report for Flight 19, or what became known as the “Lost Patrol,” listed “reasons unknown” for its loss. It even went on to say, “We are not able to even make a good guess as to what happened.”
22. USS Scorpion
For the next 20 years, ships and planes, both military and civilian, were lost to the Bermuda triangle. In May of 1968, a skip-jack class attack nuclear submarine called the USS Scorpion was reported overdue after reporting its position near the Bermuda triangle.
A massive search effort actually found the submarine at the bottom of the sea. At a depth of roughly 10,000 feet, it was unrecoverable. But reports of the incident indicate that the submarine may have been on the surface at the time of disaster and was subsequently broken in half and spread-out over a wide area of wreckage.
23. “The Deadly Bermuda Triangle”
A few years before the Scorpion went down with her 99-man crew, the term “Bermuda triangle” was coined for the first time. In 1964 a writer named Vincent Gaddis published an article titled “The Deadly Bermuda Triangle,” and it finally strung together all the previously mentioned disasters.
Included in the articles conclusions Gaddis wrote: “The waters are well patrolled by the Coast Guard, the Navy and the Air Force. And yet this relatively limited area is the scene of disappearances that total far beyond the laws of chance. Its history of mystery dates back to the never-explained, enigmatic light observed by Columbus when he first approached his landfall in the Bahamas.”
As the world marveled as aviation to a big step and the propeller plane gave way to the jet aircraft, the Bermuda triangle didn’t seem to notice. In 1971, a flight of F-4 Phantoms was tearing through the sky at Mach speeds over the Bermuda triangle when one suddenly stopped transmitting.
Sting-27’s Selective Identification Feature started to fade, so operators on the mainland radioed for the pilot to confirm his location. He did so, and confirmed what the radar showed, that he was in the middle of a right turn. Unfortunately, that was the last time anyone heard from Sting-27.
25. “Area of disturbance”
Sting 28 sent out the area, and was followed by Stings 29 and 30, who raced to the last known location. Believers of the most far-fetched theories about the mystery of the Bermuda triangle point to what happened next as evidence of something bigger going on in the area.
At an altitude of 5,000 feet, Sting-28 began making figure eights around the believed crash area and reported a 100 by 200-foot oblong “area of disturbance” in the ocean. Sting-29 arrived at 1,500 feet and confirmed the siting. Sting-30 heard the two pilots talking and decided to get a high altitude look at the huge “disturbance.”
26. USS Steadfast
The wingspan of an F-4 Phantom is only 38 feet long, so it’s very unlikely that wreckage from the small plane would disturb an area of 20,000 square feet. Sting-30 also reported that “the southern tip appears to be below the surface. The northern end appears to be above.”
The pilots radioed a coastguard cutter called Steadfast, which was within five miles of the believed crash site to come to the scene. The Steadfast raced to the scene, and by the time it got there, the unknown “disturbance” that all three pilots had reported just minutes prior had completely disappeared.
27. “The Bermuda Triangle”
At least eleven more occurrences of lost ships or airplanes in the Bermuda triangle occurred between 1973–2015. In 1974 a writer who focused on paranormal activity named Charles Berlitz published a book titled “The Bermuda Triangle,” which thoroughly covered the many theories and incidents in the area over the years.
Berlitz attempted to explain just how in the world the little area could erase so many people and material. As of 2006, Berlitz’s book sold over 20 million copies in 30 languages. Since then researchers and sleuths alike have tried to unravel the mystery, and many explanations have been given.
The most outlandish (and yet surprisingly common) theories involve the lost continent of Atlantis and space aliens. One theory put forward by Berlitz is that the Bermuda triangle resulted from the destruction of Atlantis. The idea of Atlantis was first proposed by Plato, and in 1882, a theory emerged that Atlantis could be found in the Bermuda triangle.
Off the coast of the Bahamas island of Bimini, what look like man-made walls stand underwater, and many say they’re the walls to the ancient continent. Scientists contend that the walls are natural formations, and science has also lent its own theories on the Bermuda triangle.
29. Rogue waves
Recently, a theory emerged that “rogue waves” may be the cause of all the disappearances. Scientists at South Hampton University claim that the area of the Bermuda triangle is capable of having three weather patterns converge at the same time, making conditions ripe for a rogue wave (one that comes out of the blue).
Rogue waves were only first discovered off the coast of South Africa in 1997. The scientists further demonstrated that a ship the size of the USS Cyclops could easily be snapped in two by a 100-foot-high wave. It’s possible that a wave this high could affect a plane too, especially wave-skimming torpedo bombers.
30. Methane gas clouds
But rogue waves would not explain what happened to Sting-27 or the subsequent “disturbance” that occurred afterwards. That’s why oceanographers, physicists, and other scientists have presented another theory that involves methane gas clouds. The phenomena of methane gas clouds have been observed in other seas.
Fractures in the ocean floor result in giant pockets of methane gas rising to the surface of the ocean, which would disturb ships, and then into the atmosphere, which could affect planes. If these clouds are common in the Bermuda triangle, then they could explain why so many ships and planes have disappeared from the planet altogether.
31. Agonic line
But methane clouds don’t necessarily explain why so many mariners and pilots have had navigation troubles in area. One reason that has been attributed to this fact dates way back to Columbus’s first observation that his compass was no longer pointing to true north.
The Agonic line is the point where true north intersects magnetic north, and for Columbus, it could have caused magnetic declination that made his compass not match up with what he saw in the stars. While he was unaware of the reasons behind this issue, knowledge of magnetic declination has been around for a long time.
32. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”
The most outrageous theories about the Bermuda triangle involve aliens, black holes, and time warps. In Steven Spielberg’s 1977 classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the 14 men of Flight 19 come back to Earth after being abducted by aliens. A scenario like this would explain why there are so many instances where the evidence of what happened to the vessels vanished.
Our knowledge of black holes has increased dramatically in recent decades, and theorists say that a ripple in the fabric of space time may have opened up and swallowed ships and airplanes hole in the Bermuda triangle. Whether one believes these theories are outlandish or not, they will continue to survive until Flight 19 and the USS Cyclops are found.
33. Lloyds of London
It should be noted that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does not consider the area around the Bermuda triangle especially dangerous. And Lloyds of London does not place any elevated value on insurance for ships or planes that operate in the region.
Whatever the reason or reasons behind the mysteries of the Bermuda triangle, even the biggest skeptics must admit that the cases previously discussed are curious indeed. Until then, the search for evidence of the final fate of the lives of so many who perished in the area will continue, and when the next disaster happens, hopefully someone, somewhere, will be watching, and live to solve the mystery of the Bermuda triangle.