At 2:10pm on December 5th 1945, a group of five US torpedo bombers collectively known as ‘Flight 19’ set out on a fateful flight, seeding a mystery that to this day remains unsolved. In spite of the apparent simplicity of their routine task, as the flight progressed, the crew became increasingly disorientated, and their communications with the main base became frantic; ‘Both my compasses are down’, ‘We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. Everything looks strange. Even the ocean.’ As night began to fall, fuel ran low, and it was clear that the crew were in danger. Two mariner flying boats carrying rescue equipment were sent out in pursuit, but unfortunately, it was too late. Not only had entirety of flight 19 seemed to vanish into thin air, but of the two rescue boats dispatched, only one made it back. To this day, the remains have never been found. This was to be the first of many unexplainable aircraft disappearances in the region, which has since been named ‘The Bermuda Triangle’.
The Bermuda Triangle (the triangular region of ocean encompassed by Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico) is now one of the busiest and most commercially-used areas in the world, used extensively by both ships and planes. The area has seen its fair share of accidents, and has claimed the lives of thousands of people. However, the real mystery of the Bermuda Triangle lies in the number of disappearances that are completely unexplained, and the lost ships and aircrafts that are never recovered. As with any mystery, many people are keen to put forward their ideas, with theories ranging from terrifying sea monsters to government conspiracies to alien abductions! However, scientists have also been giving the problem their attention, and have proposed many theories of their own as to the possible reasons behind the disappearances.
One of the more well-known theories focusses on the apparent compass malfunctions. Compasses use the earth’s magnetic field in order to determine which direction north is (the North pole of a compass points towards the magnetic south pole of the earth. This is located in the arctic, at the geographical north pole). It has been theorised that in the Bermuda Triangle, there are abnormal fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field that interfere with this process and cause compasses to malfunction. Although this is a compelling theory, and would explain the compass failures encountered by Flight 19, scientists are yet to find concrete evidence of abnormal magnetic field fluctuations in the area.
Another explanation that the area in the Bermuda triangle is subject to large, sudden, and often violent storms that can capsize ships, and make search and rescue operations incredibly challenging. Furthermore, the Gulf stream, the warm ocean current that flows around the Florida straight, is the fastest flowing ocean current in the world, with peak speeds of up to 2 m/s. An ocean current of this power certainly has the ability to wash away the debris from a wreckage long before any rescue operations arrive on the scene. In addition to this, the topography of the ocean floor is very confusing, changing from shallow reefs to deep ocean trenches (amongst the deepest in the world) with alarming speed. Not only can this cause problem for ships using the topography of the ocean floor for navigational purposes, but any ships that fall into these ocean tranches will certainly never be found.
‘yet another theory focuses on the large chasms that scientists have recently found on the sea floor around norway’s coast’
Yet another theory focuses on the large chasms that scientists have recently found on the sea floor around Norway’s coast. The chasms found are over half a mile wide and 150 foot deep, and mark areas where huge bubbles of methane are believed to rise up from the ocean floor. When methane gas is released into the water, the combination of gas and water causes a decrease in the overall water density. Although this does not sound particularly dangerous, it could have fatal consequences if it were to happen directly beneath a ship. In order for a ship to stay afloat, it relies on the water beneath it to be dense enough to support it. A decrease in water density could cause the ship to suddenly sink. Tests done in 2001 using beakers of water, air, and ball bearings, proved that this theory plays out on a small scale, and so although it has never been seen in action on a ship, there is no reason to believe that it would work any differently.
‘This brings us to the most recent theory, which is based on a satellite photo taken by NASA’s Terra Modis Satellite…’
This brings us to the most recent theory, which is based on a satellite photo taken by NASA’s Terra Modis Satellite, over the west corner of the Bermuda triangle. Meteorologists analysing the photograph were particularly interested in the cloud cover over the area. Usually, clouds are randomly distributed, and so they do not have straight lines or recurring patterns. This photograph however, showed a series of hexagonal holes in the cloud cover, ranging between 20 and 55 miles across, bounded by precise, straight edges. Based on similar images taken using the satellite Envisat, over the North Sea, it is believed that these peculiar clouds are suggestive of microbursts.
A microburst, also known as an air bomb, is a downward movement of air that can travel at huge speeds. These blasts develop in three stages: firstly, a downwards draft of air descends from the base of the cloud. These blasts of air can be incredibly powerful, and could have fatal consequences for any airplanes that get caught in them. Secondly, the blast of air hits the land or sea, and curls at the point of impact. At the point of impact, the force of the air blast is enough to uproot trees on land, or capsize ships on water. Finally, the wind spreads outwards at speeds of up to 170mph which, on water, can generate waves up to forty foot high! The theory is still relatively new, and is currently being debated, as some scientists claiming that the clouds over the Bermuda triangle and over the North Sea aren’t similar enough.
As it stands, any of these theories could be correct, or there could be yet another explanation that we are yet to realise. But it is certain that the passing of time is shedding more light on these unexplained disappearances, and that given time, scientists will solve the mystery of the Bermuda triangle.