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Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library/Corbis

What is the Bermuda Triangle?

A source of fascination for sailors, researchers and crackpots alike, the Bermuda Triangle is a roughly 500,000-square-mile expanse of the Atlantic Ocean located off the coast of Florida. Descriptions of its borders vary, but most accounts cite the three points of the “triangle” as Miami, Puerto Rico and the island of Bermuda. Reports of bizarre activity in the region date back to the days of Christopher Columbus, who reported unusual compass activity while traveling through it en route to the New World, but the Triangle would later earn a reputation as a dead zone for planes and ships after a string of unexplained disappearances in the 20th century. In 1945, five U.S. Navy aircraft known as “Flight 19” got lost and vanished in the triangle during a training mission. While the pilots most likely ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea, no trace of the planes or their 14 crewmembers was ever found. Another famous mystery dates to 1963, when the tanker ship SS Marine Sulphur Queen sank near Key West, Florida. Life preservers and other items were later discovered drifting in the water, but the exact cause of the disaster remains unknown, and the wreck has never been recovered.

Writers like Charles Berlitz helped popularize the Bermuda Triangle mystery in the 1960s and 1970s, and its treacherous reputation has since been chalked up to everything from intergalactic portals and time vortexes to paranormal phenomena and even the lost city of Atlantis. But despite the hysteria, government organizations and shipping companies don’t show the triangle on any official maps, and groups ranging from the U.S. Coast Guard to the global insurance outfit Lloyd’s of London maintain that the region doesn’t have an unusually high rate of maritime disasters. Other skeptics note that the triangle sits in an area famous for rogue waves and storms, and they blame any disappearances on extreme ocean depths and the effects of the Gulf Stream, which can combine to quickly erase all evidence of plane crashes and shipwrecks.

Image: Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library/Corbis
Categories: Airplanes, Disappearances