Physics 3333 / CFB 3333 Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is an area in the west Atlantic Ocean bounded by lines drawn between south Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico. The actual area of the legend is somewhat larger but is centered on the triangle.

The story appears to have its origin in 1950 (Sep. 16). In that year one E.V.W. Jones, a writer for the Associated Press, wrote a story about the mysterious disappearance of five Avenger torpedo bombers in 1945. Two years later George X. Sand wrote an article titled "Sea Mystery at Our Back Door." The story was published in Fate magazine. Various web sites (including a Navy site) indicate that the term "Bermuda Triangle" first appeared in the February 1964 issue of Argosy magazine. Writer Vincent Gaddis described the mysterious disappearances of ships and planes. A popular book called The Bermuda Triangle by Charles Berlitz appeared in 1974 and really got the legend going. Profs Cotton and Scalise have obtained copies of all of these.

Map from Flim-Flam by James Randi

Atlantic Islands and Routes

Lloyd's of London

Ships go down without a trace

Here are some links for the Bermuda Triangle. The actual number of Web links is HUGE! A Google search on "bermuda triangle" turned up about (according to Google) 137,000 hits!

There's LOTS more - check out some yourself.

We did an exercise using the story of the ship Sandra which sailed from Savannah in 1950 and disappeared on the way to Puerto Cabello. We read the story as told in the Bermuda Triangle legend and then picked it apart. We developed questions to ask if one were to REALLY investigate the story.

A librarian, one Larry Kusche, at Arizona State University took on the project of researching the Triangle stories. His book, The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved came out in 1986. He went to the trouble (a lot of work) to check all possible primary sources instead of simply retelling the same old stories. He used Coast Guard records, weather records, maritime records at Lloyd's of London, contemporary newspaper stories, and so on. No hearsay. The book is an excellent piece of work.

The Sandra story and Kusche's dissection of it can be found on the Web. Go look at Kusche's analysis at the CSICOP site.

What are we to learn from this?? First - recall the exercise we did in class where a story was passed orally from one person to the next and got royally garbled in the process. Stories that are told, copied and retold may get altered and enhanced over time. Spurious (and false) details may be added. What looks like fact may well be (as in the Sandra story) quite wrong. Second - lack of sufficient information is NOT grounds for advancing some supernatural explanation. Kusche reports a number of disappearances for which the available data are not sufficient to determine what happened; in these cases he leaves it at that.