The Bermuda Triangle is nothing special. It seems its mystique might be one of the longest-running examples of fake news.
What is the Bermuda Triangle?
The Bermuda Triangle is a region of the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean. Located roughly in the region between Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico, this region of the ocean has seen what is argued is more than its fair share of lost ships at sea, planes, and mysterious loss of life.
The region has captured the imagination of people for decades, with some speculating that unknown forces are to blame for the loss of ships and planes traveling through it. Explanations range from extraterrestrials capturing humans for study to the influence of the lost continent of Atlantis.
While most of these are whimsical at best, other explanations have also been postulated that are grounded in science, if not in evidence. These include oceanic flatulence (methane gas erupting from ocean sediments), rogue waves, and disruptions in geomagnetic lines of flux.
Where is the Bermuda triangle?
As previously mentioned, the Bermuda Triangle is an area of the Atlantic that sits roughly between Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico. It is important to note that the area, whose boundaries are not universally agreed upon, has a vaguely triangular shape.
What are some of the most famous Bermuda Triangle lost ships?
Over the years, somewhere in the region of 50 ships and 20 airplanes are said to have mysteriously disappeared there. Some of the most famous include, but are not limited to:
- 1800 - USS Pickering was lost with all 90 hands
- 1814 - USS Wasp was lost with all 140 hands
- 1824 - USS Wild Cat was lost with her crew of 14
- 1840 - Rosalie was found abandoned
- 1918 - USS Cyclops, a collier, was lost with all 306 crew
- 1921 - Caroll A. Deering, schooner, was found abandoned
- 1925 - SS Cotopaxi sent a distress signal but was never found. Her wreck was later found in 1985.
- 1941 - USS Proteus, sister ship to the USS Cyclops, was lost with all 58 hands
- 1958 - Reconoc lost with all crew
- 1963 - SS Marine Sulphur Queen lost with all 39 crew
- 1980 - HMCS St. Laurent was lost off Cape Hatteras
- 2015 - Two boys were lost while on a fishing trip. Their boat was found a year later but the boys were never found.
- 2015 - SS El Faro sank off the coast of the Bahamas with all 33 hands.
What are some of the most mysterious ships lost at sea?
While ships and aircraft have been lost in the region for no apparent reason, it turns out this is not uncommon at sea. Famous examples like the Mary Celeste are spooky, but there are other equally strange disappearances around the world.
Perhaps the most likely explanation for the high number of losses in the Bermuda Triangle is that this region sees a very high level of traffic. In fact, according to Lloyds of London and the US coast guard, the percentage of planes and ships that go missing in the Bermuda Triangle is the same as elsewhere in the world. However, this has not stopped the speculation from continuing.
The following are examples of equally odd disappearances of ships and their crew that show that the hype around the Bermuda Triangle is probably just 'hot air'.
Please note that this list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. The lost crew of the MV Joyita
On the 3rd of October, 1955, a half-submerged boat drifted toward the Fijian Island of Vanua Levu. Every single one of her 25-men crew was missing without a trace.
The boat, the Merchant Vessel (MV) Joyita, had set off two days before, heading for Tokelau, but apparently never made it. She was carrying a cargo of medical supplies, timber, food, and oil when she left, but four tons of cargo were missing along with her crew when she reappeared.
Recent investigations into the case seem to indicate that the Joyita probably took on water from a corroded pipe, which was probably the cause of her foundering. If true, the crew likely jettisoned the cargo in an attempt to save her.
When this failed, they must have been forced to abandon ship, but with too few lifeboats it's likely some crew would have simply had to float in the water waiting for rescue. Sadly, it appears that no distress signal was sent, and so no rescue ever took place.
The tragic thing is that the ship's extreme buoyancy prevented her from completely sinking. The crew may have fared better had they stayed with the vessel.
Whatever their thinking, they must have all died from thirst, hunger, drowning, or, shudder the thought, shark attacks.
2. The Schooner Patriot simply disappeared
In December of 1812, a schooner, The Patriot, set sail for New York. Onboard was Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of American politician and third vice-president of the United States, Aaron Burr.
The ship would never reach its destination, and no one would ever find the wreck of her crew. Little else is known about the schooner's fate beyond it having left port and sailed due north from South Carolina.
At the time of the Patriot's voyage, America and the United Kingdom were engaged in the War of 1812. This has led some to suspect that she was sunk by accident by the Royal Navy, but there are no British records to confirm this.
Many other theories and legends have since formed around the fate of the ship and Theodosia. These range from outright piracy, to the ship being lured to her death by onshore wreckers.
There are records from Royal Navy vessels blockading the Carolina coast indicating that a severe storm broke out on the 2nd of January 1813, which lasted till the following day. Could this have overcome the Patriot?
Whatever happened, her fate is still a complete mystery. It is likely we will never know.
3. The mysterious case of the "Ghost Yacht" the Kaz II
In 2007, a small catamaran, the Kaz II, was found drifting off the coast of Australia. Her three-person crew was nowhere to be seen, but the table had been set, and the food was waiting to be eaten.
There was also a fully functioning laptop turned on and the radio and GPS systems were fully functional. None of her life jackets had been used, and were still stowed.
What had happened? And why had were no distress signals sent?
After an extensive investigation, it is believed that one or more of the men fell overboard, either while fishing or by being knocked overboard by a swinging boom. The other crew members probably jumped in to help but were then unable to get back on board.
It is likely the sea was choppy and none of the crew were particularly strong swimmers. Their end would have been swift.
Whatever the case, the crew were never seen again and are presumed drowned or eaten.
4. The USS Porpoise hunted slavery ships only to be sunk by a Typhoon
The USS Porpoise was the second ship to carry the name. She was a Dolphin-Class Brigantine (a type of brig) and was commissioned in 1834 and launched in May of 1836.
After a long career in the Navy, including hunting down slave-trading vessels in the 1850s, she was assigned to the North Pacific Exploring and Surveying Expedition. After joining the squadron at Hampton Roads, the squadron set sail to explore the islands of Bonin, Ladrones, and Mariana.
The Porpoise and her entire crew of 69 would never be found, and there was no sign of any debris, or indication that she had ever existed. No one really knows what happened to her, but the most likely explanation is that she succumbed to a typhoon.
5. HMS Sappho almost caused a war before disappearing below the waves
HMS Sappho was a Royal Navy brig that became famous for almost causing a war between the UK and America. She was the second ship to carry the name, with both being named after the famous Greek poet.
Most of her service was dedicated to the suppression of slavery, following the UK declaring the slave trade illegal in 1807. Throughout her 20-year career, the ship was heavily involved in hunting down and capturing vessels engaged in slave trading int Africa and the West Indies.
On the 9th of May 1857, on part of her anti-slavery duties, she attacked and seized the American barque Panchita on the Congo River. This caused a diplomatic spat that almost sparked a new conflict between the US and the UK.
Following this, her captain was ordered to sail for Australia. She would never make it.
Although she was spotted in the Bass Strait by another brig in January of 1858, her fate has never been ascertained. No wreckage or any of her crew would ever be found.
6. The Waratah may have spectacularly exploded
The SS Waratah disappeared without a trace on her second voyage, in July of 1909. She was making her way between Durban and Cape Town in South Africa when she vanished with all 211 passengers and crew on board.
The Waratah was built in 1908 for the Blue Anchor Line, to be used for operations between Europe and Australia.
After leaving Adelaide on July 7th, 1909, she made it safely to Durban in South Africa on the 25th July 1909. One passenger, an engineer Claude S. Sawyer, alighted and 'cabled' his wife that, "Thought Waratah top-heavy, landed Durban."
A decision, as it turned out, that would save his life. The Waratah left port on the 26th of July and was spotted at sea on the 27th.
Later that day, the weather worsened, with high winds and rough seas being kicked up. That evening she was spotted by a larger steamer called the Harlow.
They noted she seemed to make a lot of smoke, almost as if she was on fire. Darkness fell, and the Harlow crew suddenly saw two bright flashes before the Waratah's running lights disappeared.
To this day, the fate of the ship, and her passengers and crew, is a complete mystery.
7. The SS Vaitarna just vanished
The SS Vaitarna, also known as the Vijli or Haji Kasam ni Vijili, vanished without a trace on the 8th of November 1888. Around 740 people on board were lost with her.
She was a steamship owned by the AJ Shepherd and Company in Bombay and disappeared somewhere off the coast of Saurashtra.
The Vaitarna was en route between Mandvi and Bombay when the incident occurred. No one really knows what happened and no trace was found of her and her passengers and crew.
Her final voyage saw her leave Mandvi on the 8th of November 1888. Despite some reports of her being spotted wrecking near Madhavpur that evening, she was never seen again.
And that's your lot for today.
With so many other equally mysterious stories of ships lost at sea, is the Bermuda Triangle really that different? Perhaps, just perhaps, sea travel is potentially perilous wherever you happen to be?
We'll let you decide.