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The Sargasso Sea

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   It wouldn’t be until the 20th century, however, that the epicenter of the Atlantic’s mystery would be isolated. The disappearance of huge ships and then swift aircraft drew our attention to those same coordinates that Sigsbee noted for derelicts in the 19th century. From this would be born the name “Bermuda Triangle.” And like the legends of the Sargasso Sea the Triangle would ebb and tide until yours truly did what Sigsbee did and delve into the actual documentation in the 1990s. It is a fact that there are more disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle than anywhere else in the world.

   From San Juan, Puerto Rico, it is about 1,200 miles back up to Bermuda, closing off the triangle. You might think that the barren waters of the Triangle are just boring sea, vast, tempestuous, and seldom viewed by man, being nothing more than a deep blue with whitecaps and foam.
     Quite the contrary! The heart of the Bermuda Triangle is covered by the strangest and most notorious sea on the planet— the Sargasso Sea; so named because there is a kind of seaweed which lazily floats over its entire expanse called sargassum.

  This fact removes the Triangle from the world of myth and brings it back into the world of mysteries.
     There are a number of pages on this website that detail my journey of investigation. It is not important to be sidetracked  here. But it is important to note that the Bermuda Triangle and Sargasso Sea are not paranormal places. There are those within the occult who so choose to consider the Triangle that. I do not mock their views. However, it is simply not my view or approach.  I have documented enormous tonnages of missing ships and aircraft, and even uncovered very unusual circumstances. This is a very tangible mystery, tied to thousands of

     Catching sight of these huge mats of seaweed have always  told the seafarer that they have entered the perimeter of this peculiar sea. Columbus himself made note of it. Thinking land was nearby, he fathomed the sea, only to find no bottom. The bottom is, in fact, miles below on the Nares Abyssal Plain.
     The Sargasso Sea occupies that part of the Atlantic between 20o to 35o North Latitude and 30o to 70o West Longitude. It is in complete contrast to the ocean around it. Its currents are largely immobile yet it is surrounded by some of the strongest currents in the

Most older maps delineate the location of the Sargasso Sea with seaweed. . The “Seaweed Sea” has a centuries old rep. for mysterious disappearances.  Note also how the map implies the seaweed is coming out of the Gulf with the Gulf Stream currents, a passé theory: the sargassum is actually now believed to be adapted and native to this strange sea, with very little of its cousins  coasting in from the surrounding currents. Map: National Geographic

 missing people. They did not vanish in vain if we only accept their utter and sudden disappearances lead us to discover greater forces yet undiscovered in our planet.
  
The old legends of the Sargasso Sea and its surrounding swift currents are given more form by the rediscovery of Sigbees’ work. One such famous mystery is that of the Ellen Austin. In 1881 the packet supposedly found a derelict schooner north of the Sargasso Sea and,  placing a prize crew aboard, the two vessels sailed in tandem for port. Two days later the schooner was sighted sailing erratically. When boarded again, the ship was once again deserted. There was no trace of the prize crew.
     The bark James B. Chester is another example. She was found deserted in
the currents surrounding the eastern part of the Sargasso Sea (hundreds of miles southwest of the Azores) in 1855, with chairs kicked over and a stale meal on the mess table. I have not yet found proof of this old legend (she was supposedly sailed to the Albert Docks in Britain), and Lloyd’s of London has no record of it. Considering how many derelicts there were, there has no doubt been enormous error in the retelling of this particular legend. Perhaps the captain’s name was James B. Chester. The year might be wrong. But it remains probable that what is spoken of this deserted ship in the legend is quite true. It seems unlikely that the position where it was found in the currents is a coincidence with the location where many derelicts were found at sea, swept in the currents around the Sargasso Sea to end up south of the Azores. This was not common knowledge on land, and in 1855 there is no proof yet that the pattern Sigsbee uncovered was highlighted even among nautical authorities.
     Modern derelicts have, of course, followed the same pattern. They eventually end up following the North Atlantic Drift and end up southwest of the Azores before continuing . . . unless they are boarded and towed to port. In 1969 there were some 5 derelict boats reported, one still cruising under its own power. One of them was the Teignmouth Electron, the racing vessel of Donald Crowhurst. He apparently went barmy. His logbook noted conversations with God, and eventually he must have silently stepped into the sea and into oblivion.
     Derelict vessels and sargassum are not the only mysteries of the Sargasso Sea.  Unusual weather patterns have long plagued the area. For centuries it was dreaded by the seafaring because of its deadly calms. Many times the colonial Spanish found themselves becalmed for weeks, being then forced to jettison their war horses in order to conserve water. Hence the area known as the “Horse Latitudes” traverse the Sargasso Sea. Another name would be the “Doldrums.”  The thick sargassum could even contribute to stalling a vessel during these long periods of weak winds. Even today, for smaller boats, there could be danger. Props on smaller boats can be fouled by the weed mats, causing them to go dead in the middle of  an unforgiving nowhere.
       The “Sea of Lost Ships” has not been solved in modern times; it has only expanded to the skies above. And the mystery of missing aircraft seem even greater since neither calms nor sargassum can effect them. Nor can the calms and weeds affect the large freighters that can easily plow through the sargassum and steam through calms with little effort. Regardless, a number of large cargo vessels are completely unaccounted for after entering this sea.
       When adding the reputation of the Sargasso Sea to that of the modern Bermuda Triangle, the enigma of this combined area excites one with its tenacious and centuries old clutch on mystery. If the sargassum and the stagnant calms cannot effect modern travel and yet aircraft and ships disappear alike— and for the same reason— then the mystery is not one of the sea but of the planet itself. There is something about or in this area, something about this planet’s shape and mass and the area’s juxtaposition on this very mysterious sphere we live on.
       The Sargasso Sea  must remain an enigma of this globe, for the forces that have created it have created a masterpiece of visible nonconformity, which may only be the tip of the iceberg for invisible disharmony in its elements.  Currents alone cannot explain it. There are many seas in our great oceans which are interlocked by currents. Indeed, all currents are circuitous. There are the South Pacific and Mentor Currents that circle around and hold in the South Pacific, or there are the Brazil and Benguela Currents in the South Atlantic. Though they are thoroughly charted and frequently traveled besides, neither are particularly mysterious nor have they indigenous growth so thick and unaccounted for.
     The Sargasso Sea calls to mind the greater mystery of the shape and mass of our planet, with the resultant anomalies of wind and sea. Perhaps the missing in the Bermuda Triangle provide the same clue about the invisible force fields of our planet, for these vanishings are a disconformity with what we consider to be the laws of probability. It seems more than coincidental that the one place on Earth where nature remains a mystery should also be a place where travel remains an equal mystery. The conundrum of missing ships and planes may be no greater than the very conundrum of the place in which they so utterly vanish.

   Amazingly, with all of this we have only sampled a fraction of the Triangle. We have also encountered a controversy. Before we continue our journey, we must tackle the controversy.

world: The Gulf Stream, Canary Current, North Atlantic Drift, Equatorial Current, Antilles, and Caribbean currents. These interlock to separate this sea from the rest of the tempestuous  Atlantic, making its indigenous currents largely entropious. Therefore anything that drifts into the Sargasso Sea is likely to stay there and Sargassum_Sargasso_Seaidle becalmed amidst its expansive weed mats of sargassum. The Sargasso Sea rotates slightly itself and even changes position as its surrounding currents change with weather and temperature patterns during different seasons.  
     Scientists have discarded their first thought that the strong Gulf Stream carried and deposited shoreline seaweed into this large sea. Recent investigations have concluded that the sargassum is actually

A trail of sargassum

adapted and has reproduced to become native to the area, a strange forest of seaweed growing hundreds of miles from any land. 
     Legends of a “sea of  lost ships” predates the Bermuda Triangle by centuries and was in many ways strikinglysimilar to the mythos of the modern Bermuda Triangle. Derelict vessels were found here more often, shipshape but deserted. On one occasion a slaver was sighted with nothing but skeletons aboard.Derelicts Sargasso Sea
     The Sargasso Sea, like the Bermuda Triangle, received popular and often tabloid press. Paintings showed idle sailing vessels being devoured by the sargassum, and, at the turn of the 20th century, readers were led to believe that freighters sat becalmed and weed-shrouded alongside old sailing ships— even Roman triremes— for nothing ever changed in this stagnant void.
     It used to be believed that the legends of the Sargasso Sea inspired those of the Bermuda Triangle. However, today we know it is the opposite. Although the moniker Bermuda Triangle was not around back in the 19th century, a 7 year study by the Hydrographic Office of the United States revealed that most of the derelicts found in the North Atlantic were actually abandoned in the Bermuda Triangle and then they drifted around the Sargasso Sea in the powerful Gulf Stream currents.  Some ended up in its peaceful solitudes; others continued to drift until pulled under the tumultuous Atlantic.
     In 1894 the study was published as Wrecks and Derelicts of the North Atlantic 1887 through 1893 Inclusive, written and compiled by Commander C.D. Sigsbee of the US Navy. In it Commander Sigsbee recorded some 1,628 derelicts over his 7 year study. He noted that most were first found west of 60 degrees longitude and above 35 degrees latitude. The map here is based on Sigsbee’s report and contains only a sampling of about 100 of those 1,628 derelicts he charted!
     A large number of these derelicts can no doubt be explained. But nevertheless the conundrum remains that it is here and nowhere else in the huge well-traveled Atlantic where crews lost their heads and abandoned perfectly sound ships. This number includes 160 or so American ships, 134 British, but is also includes many others from several counties— France, Norway, Sweden, even Russia.
     Some vessels remained afloat for years, making one or more complete circumferences of the Sargasso Sea.  The Fannie E. Wolston is one such ship. She held the record at the time of the publishing of Sigbees’ work. She had drifted 7,025 miles and was still drifting. She had been floating around the Sargasso Sea’s currents for over 5 years!  Sigsbee estimated from sighting reports that 19 derelicts were afloat on the North Atlantic in any given month.
       Those that were abandoned in the Sargasso Sea no doubt remained for years, drifting weakly with the rust colored sargassum, their sails vapid and shredded, lines hanging from their sides, skeletons littering the creaking deck, or it was just a ghostly derelict. Considering the number of vessels reported and re-reported for those 7 years (some vessels’ paths were closely charted, with some derelicts reported by more than 32 ships at different intervals), there literally must have been thousands of derelicts in the 19th century alone.
     As far as crews of those passing ships knew, the drifters were ghost ships cursed by some evil element in this sea. The fact the Fannie Wolston remained afloat for so long and reported by over 30 ships shows how the crews of other ships steered clear of her. She earned the reputation as a damned ship and none would tow her to port. Yet she is only one of thousands. Even if only 1 percent of these derelicts in the 19th century alone were unexplained, we deal with a large number of mysteries hitherto unknown. There is no wonder that the Sargasso Sea earned its reputation as a “Port of Missing Ships.” The sensational legend, in this case, is firmly based in fact.

SargassoSigsbee2

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