Origins of the Myth
In 1918, the USS Cyclops, the biggest ship in the Navy, with 306 people and 11,000 tons of manganese cargo for steelmaking in World War I, was lost at sea in the area now known as The Bermuda Triangle. The last message from the Cyclops was “Weather Fair, All Well.” There was no SOS and not a single trace of the ship was found. News of the Cyclops’s disappearance and the unsolved mystery of what happened to it captured the public’s interest.
Twenty-seven years later during WWII, five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers took off from Florida for a three-hour training exercise. Collectively known as “Flight 19”, the bombers’ flight plan took them through the Bermuda Triangle. None of the five planes returned from their mission. Overheard radio communications among the planes indicated that the compasses on the planes malfunctioned and failed to show direction. It is speculated that the bombers ran out of fuel while the pilots tried to find their way home and crashed into the ocean. Two search planes were sent to look for Flight 19; one of them vanished off of radar and never returned further adding to the notion that something mysterious caused the loss of the planes.
For centuries mythology has surrounded the Bermuda Triangle as there are hundreds of stories of ships lost in that area of the ocean without a trace. The USS Cyclops and Flight 19 incidents supercharged the Bermuda Triangle myth due to their notoriety and the 1974 best-selling book by Charles Berlitz titled The Bermuda Triangle further popularized the notion that traveling through that area was dangerous. As a child in the 1970s, I remember being fascinated by the idea that a mysterious section of the ocean ate ships and planes.
Common supernatural explanations for the dangers of the Bermuda Triangle have ranged from sea monsters to aliens to inhabitants of the Lost City of Atlantis causing wrecks and crashes.
Is there Truth to the Myth?
It is true that planes and ships have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. While the exact number isn’t known, it is thought that between 50-300 ships and 20 planes have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle over the centuries.
But is that an unusual amount of wrecked ships and planes for a 1.5 million square mile section of the ocean? Statistically, it’s not unusual. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “the ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans, and when foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place. This is true all over the world.” The Bermuda Triangle is one of the most heavily trafficked shipping lanes in the world and is a common route for planes and other types of ships. Analysis by multiple governmental and non-governmental researchers has concluded that the amount of missing ships and planes in the area is not out of the ordinary. For example, in 2013 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conducted an exhaustive study of maritime shipping lanes and determined that the Bermuda Triangle is not one of the world’s 10 most dangerous bodies of water for shipping. Source. The deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean is within the Bermuda Triangle so the lack of discovered wreckage is not mysterious.
Neither the US Navy nor the US Coast Guard recognizes the Bermuda Triangle as a supernatural hazard. According to the Coast Guard, “It has been our experience that the combined forces of nature and the unpredictability of mankind outdo science-fiction stories many times each year.” And in case you think that the government is engaging in a cover-up by not acknowledging the perils of the Bermuda Triangle, insurer Lloyd’s of London does not charge a premium for ships that sail through the area or even stay there their entire life (mic drop).