“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of the imagination—next stop, the Twilight Zone!” — Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone introduction.
In conversation recently, passing mention was made of the Bermuda Triangle, that infamous swirl of spooky waters not too very far off the coast of Florida. Until then I hadn’t ever stopped to consider that it is so near, but then why would that proximity be anything special or alarming? It’s definitely out of my water skiing range, but the mention of it stirred interest, encouraging me to find out a little more than what I once saw on an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Looking at a map, the Bermuda Triangle or the Devil’s Triangle as it is sometimes called, is an area of the western North Atlantic defined by three points touching on Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda, with most of the ‘mysteries’ centered along the southern boundary around the Bahamas and the Florida Straits. The triangle points enclose an area of shipping lanes with a steady flow of ships crossing for ports in either the US or Europe. Cruise ships abound and pleasure craft passing between Florida and the islands are a regular sight. It is also a heavily flown route for commercial and private aircraft.
For many years journalists and credulous others fascinated by spooky and unexplained disappearances in the Triangle area have studied mysterious loses of ships and planes and come up with sundry explanations, most of them at least a teeny tiny bit bizarro. But that area of the Atlantic does have some unusual features. It is one of only two places on earth where true north and magnetic north align, a condition that can definitely make compass readings iffy. Navigational hazards are frequent because of shoals and reefs along the continental shelf and the strong currents over those reefs. And the seabed in that part of the Atlantic has some of the deepest trenches in the world, easily hiding any wreckage. It is also an area famous for hurricanes, the southern boundary spawning 2005’s deadly Katrina.
Weird speculation about the Bermuda Triangle began with an article in Argosy magazine about the disappearance on December 5, 1945 of five planes known as Flight 19. The flight leader (in a time before GPS became common in navigation) got hopelessly lost trying to read a screwy compass. His radio communication was something like, “We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don’t know where we are…the water is green…no white!” Someone also later claimed that officials on the Navy board of inquiry remarked that the planes just “flew off to Mars.” That and other disappearances have been attributed to sea monsters, giant squid, and even extra-terrestrials.
Dozens of air and sea disasters have been attributed to strange doings in the Bermuda Triangle, but scientists—despite the area dangers described above—have assured the public that the percentage of these occurrences is no greater in this one area than others. Alien abductions and the existence of a mysterious third dimension created by unknown beings are interesting concepts, but my personal favorite among explanations for disasters in the Bermuda Triangle is the one describing severe disturbance caused by ocean flatulence—great rumbling ocean farts suddenly spewing huge quantities of trapped methane, tipping over ships and knocking planes out of the sky. Don’t you wish Rod Serling would have recreated that one?