onsider, if you will, a mysterious realm plagued by supernatural forces unknown to modern science. A place where wrinkles in the fabric of space-time eat ships and planes for lunch. A triangle of terror in the Atlantic Ocean prowled by alien space ships. A place known as the Hoodoo Sea, the Devil's Triangle, the Limbo of the Lost, the Twilight Zone.
Or, most popularly, the Bermuda Triangle.
Consider it all you want, but don't look for it on a map. The United States Board of Geographic Names does not officially recognize the Bermuda Triangle. But despite a shortage of hard evidence, the myth of the Bermuda Triangle is still alive and kicking -- albeit in a twilight zone of speculation.
The naming of the Bermuda Triangle myth traces back to 1964, when one Vincent Gaddis published an article in ARGOSY magazine describing a number of unexplained disappearances within a triangle of the Atlantic marked by Florida, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. Other authors before and after him have helped to embellish and sustain the myth.
The most celebrated disappearance in the Bermuda Triangle concerns Flight 19. On December 5, 1945, five TCM Avengers and 14 Navy aviators took off from Ft. Lauderdale on a training mission off the Florida coast. They disappeared later that day, as it is said, without a trace. Despite all the hoopla over the incident, the most likely explanation is as ordinary and unremarkable as it is tragic.
The squadron was led by an experienced pilot. But based on sporadic radio communications with the planes, it is clear that the leader became severely disoriented. He eventually headed east, out into the open ocean, thinking he was heading for the Florida coast. Eventually, the planes ran out of gas and would have had to ditch. The seas were rough, however, and the unusually heavy, 14,000-pound frames of the TCMs would have sank quickly. The unfortunate aviators had little chance of surviving in the stormy seas, much less being found in one piece in the shark-infested waters.
Besides bad luck and empty gas tanks, there are numerous possible reasons for other losses in the Bermuda Triangle. For one thing, there's the unpredictable weather, with strong winds and large, damaging waves. The swift Gulf Stream current could nudge ships hopelessly off course. And of course there are the region's (apparently) calm waters, which have lured many an inexperienced sailor to their doom. Indeed, the Coast Guard receives thousands of distress calls a year.
But the ultimate explanation for the Bermuda Triangle is the most disappointing of all: Given the heavy traffic of ships through the area, a significant number of disappearances would be expected. Indeed, a check of the records by Lloyds of London and the U.S. Coast Guard showed that the losses in the Bermuda Triangle are not markedly different from any other comparable area in the world.
-- By Daniel Pendick