On Dec. 5, 1945, U.S. Navy aviators on a training mission went missing in the Atlantic Ocean. The 14 sailors and five airplanes were never found. Later in the week, a plane searching for the missing crewmen blew up.
The head pilot in the original flight thought he was headed toward the Florida Keys, when in fact he was already past them, and he continued farther east. The Navy attributed the incident to pilot error. Because faulty instruments, darkness, and weather were also thought to be factors, the head pilot’s family objected, and the official report was changed to attribute the incident to “causes unknown.” The report on the subsequent tragedy noted that “it too never returned,” an accurate but unnecessarily cryptic description of an aircraft lost when its fuel tank exploded. These unrelated and explicable tragedies birthed the belief in nefarious forces at work in a triangle whose points are Miami, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. The Bermuda Triangle term had never been used before and was created to fit this new narrative.
The number of aircraft and sea vessels lost over the years is consistent with a busy shipping lane in a storm-prone area. There is no more percentage of unexplained loss here than in any other triangle, rectangle, or hendecagon one could invent. A NOVA investigation concluded that ships and planes behave no differently in the Triangle than anywhere else. Lloyd’s of London, which insures ships against disappearance or wreck, reports the number lost in the Triangle is consistent with its size and traffic.
The most thorough examination of Bermuda Triangle claims was conducted by author Lawrence Kusche. He researched original sources for each incident of missing craft in the Triangle, and regularly noted inconsistencies between writers’ claims and witness testimony and weather logs. Some embellished reports spoke of ideal conditions, when a check of the weather that day showed the opposite.
More egregious, some writers included media reports of missing aircraft, without bothering to learn that they were later located. Perhaps most ridiculous, some accounts listed aircraft and sea vessels lost after leaving the Triangle. This included a ship that went missing near Singapore after starting the journey in Miami. So even craft that went missing halfway around the world and were then found were added to the Triangle tally. There were also attempts at historical revisions, with false claims that the Mary Celeste and Santa Maria were lost in the area.
Besides the 1945 Navy incidents, there were three occurrences that garnered significant attention at the time. In 1963, the S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen tanker disappeared. None of its 39 crew members were found. Author Charles Berlitz claimed this occurred in good weather and baffled Coast Guard officials. Kusche’s research showed that, in fact, there were rough seas, structural damage, and a cargo of 15 tons of molten sulfur. During prior voyages, tons of sulfur had leaked into the tanker. This is a possible explanation, though it lacks the creativity of the theory which holds craft are shot down by a laser fired from the sunken Atlantis continent.
A freighter dubbed The Sandra was purported to have mysteriously disappeared in ideal weather, when it had gone down after encountering hurricane-force winds. The Freya was listed as being found ominously adrift in the Triangle, when it had been found abandoned in the Pacific Ocean.
Kusche found that most writers relayed their speculations onto fellow “researchers,” who did no follow up investigation. This sloppy research and communal reinforcement created the Bermuda Triangle myth that continues.