The Bermuda Triangle History
The "Bermuda Triangle is an imaginary area located off the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States of America, which is noted for a supposedly high incidence of unexplained disappearances of ships and aircraft. The apexes of the triangle are generally believed to be Bermuda; Miami, Florida; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The US Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name. The US Navy does not believe the Bermuda Triangle exists. It is reported that Lloyd's of London, the world's leading market for specialist insurance, does not charge higher premiums for vessels transiting this heavily traveled area.
The most famous US Navy losses which have occurred in the area popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle are USS Cyclops(see 1 ) in March 1918 and the aircraft of Flight 19(see2) in December 1945. The ship probably sank in an unexpected storm, and the aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean -- no physical traces of them have ever been found. Another well known disappearance is the civilian tanker SS Marine Sulphur Queen carrying bulk molten sulfur which sank in February 1963. Although the wreck of Marine Sulphur Queen has not been located, a life preserver and other floating artifacts were recovered. These disappearances have been used to provide credence to the popular belief in the mystery and purported supernatural qualities of the "Bermuda Triangle."
Since the days of early civilization many thousands of ships have sunk and/or disappeared in waters around the world due to navigational and other human errors, storms, piracy, fires, and structural/mechanical failures. Aircraft are subject to the same problems, and many of them have crashed at sea around the globe. Often, there were no living witnesses to the sinking or crash, and hence the exact cause of the loss and the location of the lost ship or aircraft are unknown. A large number of pleasure boats travel the waters between Florida 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.
To see how common accidents are at sea, you can examine some of the recent accident reports of the National Transportation Safety Board for ships and aircraft. One of the aircraft accident reports concerns an in-flight engine failure and subsequent ditching of a Cessna aircraft near Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas on 13 July 2003. This is the type of accident that would likely have been attributed to mysterious causes in the Bermuda Triangle if there had been no survivors or other eyewitnesses of the crash.
A significant factor with regard to missing vessels in the Bermuda Triangle is a strong ocean current called the Gulf Stream. It is extremely swift and turbulent and can quickly erase evidence of a disaster. The weather also plays its role. Prior to the development of telegraph, radio and radar, sailors did not know a storm or hurricane was nearby until it appeared on the horizon. For example, the Continental Navy sloop Saratoga was lost off the Bahamas in such a storm with all her crew on 18 March 1781. Many other US Navy ships have been lost at sea in storms around the world. Sudden local thunder storms and water spouts can sometimes spell disaster for mariners and air crews. 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 of the ocean bottom is in a state of flux and the development of new navigational hazards can sometimes be swift.
It has been inaccurately claimed that the Bermuda Triangle is one of the two places on earth at which a magnetic compass points towards true north. Normally a compass will point toward magnetic north. The difference between the two is known as compass variation. The amount of variation changes by as much as 60 degrees at various locations around the World. If this compass variation or error is not compensated for, navigators can find themselves far off course and in deep trouble. Although in the past this compass variation did affect the "Bermuda Triangle" region, due to fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field this has apparently not been the case since the nineteenth century.
We know of no US Government-issued maps that delineate the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle. However, general maps as well as nautical and aviation charts of the general area are widely available in libraries and from commercial map dealers.
1-History of USS Cyclops
The second Cyclops, a collier, was launched 7 May 1910 by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, Pa., and placed in service 7 November 1910, G. W. Worley, Master, Navy Auxiliary Service, in charge. Operating with the Naval Auxiliary Service, Atlantic Fleet, the collier voyaged in the Baltic during May to July 1911 to supply 2d Division ships. Returning to Norfolk, she operated on the east coast from Newport to the Caribbean servicing the fleet. During the troubled conditions in Mexico in 1914 and 1915, she coaled ships on patrol there and received the thanks of the State Department for cooperation in bringing refugees from Tampico to New Orleans.
With American entry into World War I, Cyclops was commissioned 1 May l917, Lieutenant Commander G. W. Worley in command. She joined a convoy for St. Nazaire, France, in June 1917, returning to the east coast in July. Except for a voyage to Halifax, Nova Scotia, she served along the east coast until 9 January 1918 when she was assigned to Naval Overseas Transportation Service. She then sailed to Brazilian waters to fuel British ships in the south Atlantic, receiving the thanks of the State Department and Commander-in-Chief, Pacific. She put to sea from Rio de Janiero 16 February 1918 and after touching at Barbados on 3 and 4 March, was never heard from again. Her loss with all 306 crew and passengers, without a trace, is one of the sea's unsolved mysteries.
2-The Loss Of Flight 19
Flight 19, consisting of five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers (manufactured by the Eastern Aircraft under license from Grumman) departed from the U. S. Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on an authorized advanced overwater navigational training flight. They were to execute navigation problem No. 1, which is as follows: (1) depart 26 degrees 03 minutes north and 80 degrees 07 minutes west and fly 091 degrees (T) distance 56 miles to Hen and Chickens Shoals to conduct low level bombing, after bombing continue on course 091 degrees (T) for 67 miles, (2) fly course 346 degrees (T) distance 73 miles and (3) fly course 241 degrees (T) distance 120 miles, then returning to U. S. Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In charge of the flight was a senior qualified flight instructor, piloting one of the planes. The other planes were piloted by qualified pilots with between 350 and 400 hours flight time of which at least 55 was in TBM type aircraft. The weather over the area covered by the track of the navigational problem consisted of scattered rain showers with a ceiling of 2500 feet within the showers and unlimited outside the showers, visibility of 6-8 miles in the showers, 10-12 otherwise. Surface winds were 20 knots with gusts to 31 knots. The sea was moderate to rough. The general weather conditions were considered average for training flights of this nature except within showers.
A radio message intercepted at about 4 p.m. was the first indication that Flight 19 was lost. This message, believed to be between the leader on Flight 19 and another pilot in the same flight, indicated that the instructor was uncertain of his position and the direction of the Florida coast. The aircraft also were experiencing malfunction of their compasses. Attempts to establish communications on the training frequency were unsatisfactory due to interference from Cuba broadcasting stations, static, and atmospheric conditions. All radio contact was lost before the exact nature of the trouble or the location of the flight could be determined. Indications are that the flight became lost somewhere east of the Florida peninsula and was unable to determine a course to return to their base. The flight was never heard from again and no trace of the planes were ever found. It is assumed that they made forced landings at sea, in darkness somewhere east of the Florida peninsula, possibly after running out of gas. It is known that the fuel carried by the aircraft would have been completely exhausted by 8 p.m. The sea in that presumed area was rough and unfavorable for a water landing. It is also possible that some unexpected and unforeseen development of weather conditions may have intervened although there is no evidence of freak storms in the area at the time.
All available facilities in the immediate area were used in an effort to locate the missing aircraft and help them return to base. These efforts were not successful. No trace of the aircraft was ever found even though an extensive search operation was conducted until the evening of 10 December 1945, when weather conditions deteriorated to the point where further efforts became unduly hazardous. Sufficient aircraft and surface vessels were utilized to satisfactorily cover those areas in which survivors of Flight 19 could be presumed to be located.
One search aircraft was lost during the operation. A PBM patrol plane which was launched at approximately 7:30 p.m., 5 December 1945, to search for the missing TBM's. This aircraft was never seen nor heard from after take-off. Based upon a report from a merchant ship off Fort Lauderdale which sighted a "burst of flame, apparently an explosion, and passed through on oil slick at a time and place which matched the presumed location of the PBM, it is believed this aircraft exploded at sea and sank at approximately 28.59 N; 80.25 W. No trace of the plane or its crew was ever found.
The Operational Archives Branch, Naval History & Heritage Command has placed the Board of Investigation convened at NAS Miami to inquire into the loss of the 5 TBM Avengers in Flight 19 and the PBM aircraft on microfilm reel, NRS 1983-37. To order a duplicate copy of this film for the fees indicated on the NHHC fee schedule, please complete the duplication order form and send a check or money order for the appropriate amount, made payable to