Most everybody has heard of the Bermuda Triangle, but the expression has become so clouded with popular hearsay and sensationalism that few can really give an accurate account of what it is. The first gut reaction many people give when asked about the Bermuda Triangle is “I don’t believe in it!”
Yet what is it they don’t believe in?
The Bermuda Triangle is actually two things. First off, it is a geographic area of the North Atlantic Ocean located off the South East coast of the United States. It generally lies in and around three nodal points: the island of Bermuda, Miami, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. It can hardly be denied that this area of the Earth does exist. But, of course, when most refer to the Bermuda Triangle they really mean the enigma of the Bermuda Triangle. This is the area’s great controversy. The enigma is that more ships and planes disappear in this area more than in any other place in the world, in fair weather and for no readily explainable reason.
Strictly interpreted, the Bermuda Triangle is delineated above.
The purpose of this section of The Quester Files is to provide a sober look at this phenomenon. The results presented here are not based on synthesizing hearsay, tabloid news or 40 year old books. What you will see on this website is based on official documentation gleaned over the last 26 years. And it also inspired my book Into the Bermuda Triangle (McGraw-Hill, 2003). It began this as an innocent hobby before it escalated into a vast project, a project to get almost every report possible, to track down every clue, to verify every claim. . .and often to get the figurative door slammed in my face. These official reports form the bulk of the evidence used herein. Carefully sifting through these, with lines censored, pages cut out and paragraphs deleted, has brought to light a pattern interwoven with mystery and tragedy.
For over a quarter of a century now I have studied the Bermuda Triangle. For good or bad my name has become inexorably linked with the subject. My studies have proven to my satisfaction that the enigma is quite true. Anybody out there may form whatever opinion they wish on the subject, and even propose their own theories. That is a healthy thing to do. But to have any credence these theories must be based on the facts. And it is my hope that this site and my books help to bring those facts to everybody.
This being said, it is best to lay some groundwork here to helps start the reader off on the right foot. First, theories are NOT a part of the enigma. Some of them, especially the most esoteric, may give a chill up our collective spine, but theories and facts are not the same thing. Many may immediately think of UFOs when the Bermuda Triangle is mentioned, or perhaps even Edgar Cayce’s Atlantis. But these are not contributors to the enigma. These are all a part of the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.
The enigma and the facts go back long before the moniker “Bermuda Triangle” and a long time before air traffic. In fact, the general area was the center of almost all nautical mysteries, including the dereliction of sound and stable ships, since the beginning of recorded sailing. The first mention of the general area was in 1894. For over 7 years commander C.D. Sigsbee, of the US Navy, studied the phenomenon of derelict vessels in the North Atlantic Ocean. With its litany of mystery vessels, Sigsbee’s work could almost have inspired a Jules Verne adventure. He noted that over the 7 years of 1887 to 1893 inclusive there were recorded 1,628 derelicts in the North Atlantic. This is what was most notable about his discovery:
- “Pilot Charts show that most of the derelicts are sighted in the Gulf Stream off the United States coast, north of 30 degrees north latitude, and west of 60 degrees west longitude. The number gradually decreases to the eastward along the transatlantic steamer routes. A number of those which remain afloat the longest time make the circuit of the Sargasso Sea. The majority of the derelicts were vessels which were abandoned near the United States coasts.”
No better delineating of the area of the Bermuda Triangle can be given. The US Hydrographic Office published Sigsbee’s work in 1894, preserving a wealth of information. In this work Sigsbee notes that on an average 19 derelicts were afloat each month. Some of these were never boarded by other ships in order to determine why the crew abandoned them. Ships like the Fannie E. Wolston were afloat for years, making 2 or more complete circumferences of the Sargasso Sea.
Many of these derelicts have explanations. The Drisko, for instance, which was found off Key West, was foolishly abandoned by her crew, who forgot that a wood vessel carrying lumber cannot sink. Many passing vessels sighted the derelict waterlogged but still afloat. The USS San Francisco finally had to sink her as a hazard. Other crews were found in their lifeboats, picked up by other passing ships. But that does not diminish the conundrum. It is here, more than anywhere in the North Atlantic, and indeed the world, where crews lost their heads and their nerves and abandoned their vessel for a flimsy little lifeboat.
Sigsbee believed that the number of derelicts increased over his 7 year period of study because the Hydrographic Office was perfecting its system of reporting by enlisting more ships in their network of relaying encounters. This gives us an idea of how many derelicts were floating about the Atlantic long before his study. One brief window into this period is found in 1873. The New York Times commented on the case of the Abd-El Kader. She was sailing to America and encountered two derelicts at sea. The first (Robert C. Winthrop)was boarded and found shipshape, but a squall was brewing so the crew decided to leave the vessel to its fate. Then on approaching Boston yet another was come across (Kate Brigham). Exasperated, the Times reporter wondered what was causing American sailors to abandon their vessels. Was it the “Flying Dutchman” coming across their bow, the reporter jibed tongue-in-cheek?
The phenomenon of abandoned, drifting vessels is often associated with the Sargasso Sea. This area lies in the middle of the North Atlantic, clutched in the surrounding grasp of very strong currents like the Gulf Stream, North Atlantic Drift, and the North Equatorial Current, among others. Together they seal off this area from the often tempestuous Atlantic. As a result it is an area of weak currents and, also, little wind. It was cursed by sailors since Columbus’ time. Later it got the name of the Doldrums, from which we borrowed the expression for a fatigued depression. It was also called the Horse Latitudes because the Spanish had to throw their horses over the side to conserve water while they drifted and waited for a wind to fill their vapid sails.
The Sargasso Sea. Its westernmost part overlaps the Bermuda
Triangle. It gets its name from the unique form of seaweed that
grows over its surface called sargassum.
Sea lore turned the Sargasso Sea into the “Port of Missing Ships.” According to the legend, it is here where all sorts of derelict vessels could be found drifting in the languid currents, lifeless and haunted. It has been said that the Bermuda Triangle mythos grew out of that of the Sargasso Sea’s. But Sigsbee’s work shows us how this is not possible. Most derelicts actually happened in the area of the Bermuda Triangle, not within the Sargasso Sea. The powerful Gulf Stream caused the vessels to drift out and along the powerful currents that clutch the Sargasso Sea.
One such case is the tern Wyer G. Sargent. She was sighted first on March 31, 1891, at 34 degrees of latitude in the Triangle. She was spotted again at only 35 degrees of latitude 615 days later. It would seem she had barely drifted in almost 2 years! However, from reports of some 32 ships it was made plain that the vessel drifted around the entire Sargasso Sea and was already on its second course around it yet again. It had drifted 5,500 miles in those days and was still going strong like the Fannie Wolston.
Those ships that drifted into the Sargasso Sea were perhaps preserved longer or simply idled in a general area longer than those that drifted in the fast currents. Because of this the Sargasso Sea rightly received the moniker “Port of Missing Ships.” But for the most part, the mysteries began in the Bermuda Triangle.
With so many derelicts haunting the North Atlantic for years it is hardly surprising that a legend of mystery developed. Even if the crews escaped these sound ships safely, for whatever reason, many of the crews that spotted the vessels never knew that. As far as witnesses were concerned these ships were truly cursed drifters. Crews and ships continued to avoid them. The Fannie Wolston had drifted over 7,000 miles when last reported, and Sigsbee noted that this range, the longest and furthest on record, would be increased, as she was still drifting at the time of his report’s publication.
Can you imagine how many times the same ship and crew sighted the Wolston and steered clear of her? By her unrelenting will not to die, she must have inspired many eerie ghost stories.
The modern legend of the Bermuda Triangle is hardly without its kernel of truth, as the study of the Hydrographic Office underscores. It didn’t need to be sensationalized, for obviously the sensational truly did exist. Modern scholars were surprised when Sigsbee’s work was again republished recently. Therein we discovered the salient fact that more derelicts had always occurred in the precise area where the modern legend of missing ships and aircraft is also centered.
This mystery is simply not a mathematic probability expected in the heavily crowded sea ports of the United States, where American vessels simply broke their moorings and drifted out to sea. Sigsbee broke down the stats to show that American and British ships constituted the higher percentage (160 American and 134 British respectively) but also that 95 Norwegian ships, 24 German, 20 Italian, 11 French, 10 Swedish and even 9 Russian ships, among other nationalities, join the list of vessels where their crews fled safe ship for treacherous waters.
Sigsbee’s studies, and those independent reports in Hydrographic bulletins, reveal a genuine enigma. The area we today call the Bermuda Triangle has always stood out for mystery. Whether many of these derelicts can be explained or not does not change the overall enigma. It is here where crews took flight more than elsewhere, and this must be explained, for it is a pattern and it is a pattern that overlaps the pattern of disappearances of ships and planes and their entire crew.
Still other reports from ships sailing the area, including the now-infamous Mohican in 1904, have given us some possible though no less alarming reasons why crews may have panicked. A connection with today’s enigma of the Bermuda Triangle is underscored by the fact that old accounts like the Mohican had long been buried and forgotten. Yet long before this old newspaper account was rediscovered in the 21st century, we already had published accounts from those who sailed the Triangle and reported encounters with electromagnetic “forces.” They, too, spoke about unusual clouds and “electronic fogs” that caused compasses to go haywire, power to be drained, the horizon to disappear, and all electronic gear to malfunction.
To what extent do these “forces” have to do with disappearances? That can only be determined by continuing to gather and collate data, as I continue to do. But as for the enigma of the Bermuda Triangle, we can safely say that it is quite real. Unusual electromagnetic aberrations do happen there, and there are more disappearances than elsewhere. However, we cannot let theories replace facts or let favorite guesses solve what is not solved. Supernatural explanations cannot be allowed to wipe out the genuine and intriguing enigma this sea really holds. Mystery is an invitation to look and to learn, not to deny and mock.
Disappearances by the hundreds have joined the mystery derelicts of the 19th century. They add an even greater tangibility to the Triangle’s enigma. A disappearance of materiel as big as ships and airliners is not a subjective mystery, such as sightings of UFOs or Bigfoot. These ships and aircraft existed. They had people aboard, and now they are missing. They exist by registration number in archives and official registers, and investigations were made of most of the cases, so that it is possible to go back centuries and find records where an investigator puzzled over just why a ship disappeared, just as we do when reading his report.
In the aviation age, however, mystery intensified. Aircraft travel relatively quickly compared to ships. Their flight paths are carefully vectored. Their ETAs are known. Yet they disappear, sometimes at alarming rates. They present many more mysteries than ship disappearances. They are not subject to piracy in midair. Seaquakes will not upset them. Whales cannot harm them. They often don’t vanish far from our eyes either. Radar has captured them. One moment they are there. A sweep of the scope— 20 seconds— they are gone. Many vanished over shallow water and left no trace. And, most of all, rescuers have come quickly to the suspected scene and yet, even minutes later, find nothing.
Some 50 plus years has now elapsed since people sought the cause of all this. Truth and error have intermixed, but together they have revealed enormous potential about our planets and brought to our attention intriguing discussions about possible causes and solutions.
Study carefully for yourself. Theories and speculation will vary, but in the end all will agree that the enigma is quite true.