Bermuda Triangle




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   With all you’ve read and heard about the location of missing ships and planes, you might be wondering just exactly what shape is the “Triangle” anyway? You would not be the first. No two researchers or authors ever agreed, although most were in accord that the area of the strict triangle between Miami, San Juan and Bermuda embodies the greatest part. 
       Some have proposed alternate nodal points. One is Norfolk, Virginia. This calls to mind that Cape Hatteras has been known for centuries as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” However, graveyard implies a burial place for ships, where their rotting carcasses can still be seen. And that is quite true of Cape Hatteras. Many famous vessels can still be found on the bottom, slammed by the great gales and thrashed by the reefs, like the Union ironclad, Monitor, which

The standard triangle of journalist Vincent Gaddis. Above this is superimposed the “vile vortex” of Ivan Sanderson. While Gaddis sought to catalogue sea mysteries, Sanderson tried to use them to verify his theories of areas of electromagnetic anomalies and underwater UFO civilizations.

foundered here. But disappearance means no trace is found, implying destruction on a complete and total scale, something beyond even the great reefs and shoals of Cape Hatteras and her wild seas.
   The seas off Norfolk are, of course, the Gulf Stream and the routes to Bermuda or south to the Bahamas and Caribbean. All the ships coming or going  to Panama and the East Coast pass by here, to Canada, New York, off to Europe, wherever. The coasts of the Carolinas are in perfect juxtaposition to put them in daily interplay with the greatest seaways of the Triangle.
   But though these are hard waters, several mysteries share an uneasy grave here with the rusted relics of the sea. The freighter Southern Districts passed by here in 1954 and vanished utterly, as have several yachts en route to Bermuda, like Windfall or Dancing Feathers or L’Avenir. The 5 masted cargo schooner, Carroll A. Derring, ghosted up upon the shores here in 1921, totally shipshape but mysteriously deserted.
     Captain John M. Waters, once head of Coast Guard Search and Rescue in Washington D.C., wrote in his Rescue at Sea (Van Nostrand, 1966) about the curious disappearance of a Coast Guard commander, James Reed Hinnant. He was commander of the Coast Guard cutter Rockaway. It was a palmy night. About 300 miles off Cape Hatteras, near the Sargasso Sea, the Rockaway’s propeller became fouled. He ordered diving gear and search lights. He was an experienced diver and was even commended for his diving under fire in the Philippines during  WWII. Suited up, he went over the side to the propeller. Dozens manned the rails and watched the  brightened water, glowing from the underwater spot light. After a while they tugged his line to see if he was OK. However, there was no response. The OD ordered it hauled in, yet it would not budge.
     The search for Hinnant was intense, but in the end it offered no clues but this: his air hose and line were found fouled in the propeller. Capt. Waters finishes the narrative: “What could have happened to an experienced diver only 10 feet below the surface? Had his retaining line and air hose fouled? If so, he had only to release his weighted belt, take a deep pull of air, flip off the mask, and surface. It is a simple and basic maneuver for a diver. Many speculated that he had been hit by a shark. There are many large man eaters in that area, and they are attracted to light. Commander Hinnant had been working beneath a large light, and a shark could have come in while he was busy working on the screw. However, no

Three varied shapes: The Trapezium of Richard Winer extends far into the Atlantic; Charles Berlitz’s triangle extends close to South America; and the broken line represents John Spencer’s “Limbo of the Lost.”

sharks were seen at any time, and there was no disturbance in the water, nor any evidence of a struggle.  No one saw him surface, though  many men were watching the water at all times. What happened to him that night will never be known.”
     Disappearances like this boggle the mind. But now change the scenario from a single man to a large ship or airplane, and you can see why so many puzzle over the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. 
     With similar suddenness, mystery also befell a Navy KA-6 attack bomber in 1978 while 100 miles off Norfolk. The last words of the pilot, Lieutenant Paul Smyth, were: “Stand By, we have a problem right now . . .” In the radar plot of the carrier John F. Kennedy (Smyth’s intended destination), they continued to follow the jet and attempt contact for 10 minutes without any response. Then the KA-6 suddenly vanished. Shortly thereafter, another blip reappeared, tracking in another direction, away from the carrier, then vanished off the radar scope forever. There was never a trace found of the jet, nor any reason why Smyth answered no calls in that period of time; no reason why there was no automatic alarm, nor why they could not eject (ejection also triggers an auto-alarm). And what was that second blip?
   Three marines and three children departed in a launch off Surf City, North Carolina, in 1985, only to vanish. The launch was later found

. . . at the end of a line of six unused life jackets. No explanation was found, and the launch was towed back in.
   Along with dozens of more examples, far too many to recite without being repetitious,  Norfolk or the Virginia Capes offer themselves as a point in the “Triangle.” Premier sailor, Alan Villiers, noted this in his Posted Missing (Scribners 1974), saying the Triangle lay between Key West, Chesapeake Bay and Bermuda. This is quite an interesting Triangle, and Villiers was probably more inspired by the reports ofCape Hatteras from Space sailors rather than the impression of flyers and those in coastal towns. The latter clearly developed the concept of the Bermuda Triangle between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, where most of the aircraft, smaller vessels and charters vanish.  But the bigger stuff slips

Historic and tumultuous  Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

into oblivion further up the coast along the Gulf Stream. As C.D. Sigsbee’s 1894 study showed this location is also where most derelicts are found as well.
     Yet one cannot simply exclude parts of the Triangle in order to include others. Unfortunately that is the great weakness of Villier’s triangle. John Wallace Spencer, from whom the term “Limbo of the Lost” originates, wrote the first entire book devoted to the subject (Limbo of the Lost, Phillips, 1969).
was far more inclusive and even included the Gulf of Mexico. He believed the “Triangle” extended from “. . . Cape May, New Jersey, to the edge of the continental shelf. Following the shelf around Florida into the Gulf of Mexico, it continues through Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and other islands of the West Indies, and then comes up again through the Bahamas. . . then up once more to Bermuda.”
     Naturalist Ivan T. Sanderson, who studied several phenomena from Bigfoot to UFOs, held a different view. He observed: “The popular idea has been that there is a roughly triangular area with sides running from Bermuda to central Florida and thence to Puerto Rico . . .This is a glamorous notion, but on proper analysis it does not stand up. It is not a triangle, and its periphery is much greater than the one outlined above. In fact, the area . . .forms a large, sort of lozenge shaped area . . which extends from about 30o to 40o north latitude, and from about 55o to 85west.”
     Regrettably, Sanderson missed most of the Triangle. His proper analysis on the topic, as on so many was flawed and rushed, probably by the deadline schedule of the men’s magazine Argosy for which he wrote. Sanderson’s “vile vortex” recalls the days when more derelicts were found in the Atlantic, for whatever reasons, but by his time derelicts were not so commonplace. Middle class America was conquering the seas and enjoying the Bahamas, and it was in this section of the Triangle that the majority of disappearances were now concentrated.
   Author Richard Winer offered yet another novel shape, stating in his Devil’s Triangle (1974): “The Devil’s Triangle is not a triangle at all. It is a trapezium, a four sided area in which no two sides or angles are the same.” He concludes:  “And the first four letters of the word trapezium more than accurately describe it.” Unlike Sanderson’s “vortex,” Winer included without excluding. He was attracted to the currents north of the Sargasso Sea where so many fabled derelicts had been reported and where much still remained

Drawing lines from the major nodel points of Bermuda, Miami, San Juan and Norfolk creates the “Sea of the Four Triangles.” This about covers John Godwin’s “Hoodoo Sea.”

within the fabric of a sailor’s superstition. But Winer trapezium overlooks that the Triangle is still the epicenter of the phenomenon.
     Many mystery ships  that are found in the area north of the Sargasso Sea is the result of derelicts drifting out from the Triangle. There are a few noteworthy disappearances up in these latitudes, but nothing compared to what still happens “in and about” the Triangle that Vincent Gaddis coined in 1964.
     There are any number of other novel shapes which promote an author’s imagination more than his knowledge of the Bermuda Triangle. John Godwin (This Baffling World) not only identified the area most accurately, but also gave it its most humorous name, calling it the “Hoodoo Sea.” To add injury to insult, Vincent Gaddis later retracted his statement because it implied the phenomenon had “boundaries,” although it is hard to imagine how there can be a phenomenon if there are no boundaries.  

   It is therefore up to the reader to decide, based upon the maps, which shape he/she prefers. One thing is certain: the “Triangle”  remains the epicenter for nautical mysteries.

    Let us go to this epicenter, to somewhere in between and challenge the Triangle’s most enigmatic corner. 

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