The Bermuda Triangle is an area of supposed mystery in a rough triangle defined by the vertices at Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Florida. Within this area it is said that a number of ships and planes have disappeared without cause.
Shakespeare's play The Tempest is named after a magical tempest near Bermuda. It has been mentioned as an early testimonial.
The area was first noted in 1950 by E.V.W. Jones as a sidebar on recent ship losses on the AP wire. It was again mentioned in 1952 in a Fate magazine article, by George Sand. The term "Bermuda Triangle" was first popularised by Vincent Gaddis in a 1964 Argosy feature.
It achieved true fame largely through the efforts of Charles Berlitz in his 1974 book The Bermuda Triangle. The book consisted of a series of recountings of mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft, collected from local newpaper reports. The book was a best-seller, and many interested readers offered theories to explain the nature of the disappearances. The list includes natural storms, transportation by extraterrestrial technology, a temporal hole, the lost Atlantis empire from the bottom of the ocean, and other natural and supernatural causes.
A librarian named Larry Kusche was intrigued by the number of students coming to him looking for information about the Bermuda triangle, and he started following up the original reports. His findings were eventually published as The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved.
Kusche's research revealed a number of inconsistencies between Berlitz' accounts and statements from eyewitnesses, participants, and others involved in the initial incidents. He also noted cases where pertinent but late-arriving information went unreported. The Berlitz book included the disappearance of round-the-world yachtsman Donald Crowhurst as a mystery, in spite of the fact that Crowhurst had been fabricating his voyage and his diary strongly suggested suicide. An ore carrier ship, lost without trace three days out of port, was actually lost three days from a port of the same name in the Pacific Ocean.
The most famous incident remains famous to this day, the loss of "Flight 19", a group of Navy bombers on a training flight out of Ft. Lauderdale. According to Berlitz, the flight consisted of expert pilots who reported a number of odd visual effects before simply disappearing, never to be found. A Navy search-and-rescue plane sent out to find them also disappeared. The TBM Avenger bombers were built to float for long periods, so they should have been found the next day considering the calm seas.
Later reports fill in the end-notes. Having set out, Flight 19 got lost. A radio call noted that they were flying over a small group of islands they assumed were the Florida Keys, implying that they were well off course and far to the west of where they should have been. A later re-creation showed that the islands in question were their bombing target, and that they were exactly on course. The next few hours consisted of the lead pilot leading the flight further and further east in an effort to reach Florida, when in fact they were already far out to sea off the east coast.
After many hours of flying away from land, they ran out of fuel and they were forced to ditch in heavy seas. Witnesses report the PBM Mariner sent to rescue them, with which they were in radio contact for much of the flight, exploding in the air.
Kusche came to several conclusions:
- With this area being one of the busiest shipping areas in the world, the proportion of losses was no greater than anywhere else.
- In an area with frequent tropical storms, the total disappearance of some ships was not unlikely or mysterious, and the number of such disappearances was exaggerated by sloppy research, when a missing boat would be reported in the press, but not its eventual return to port.
- In actual disappearances, the circumstances were frequently misreported in the Bermuda Triangle books: the number of ships disappearing in supposedly still, calm weather did not jibe with press weather reports published at the time.