(Investigator 128, 2009 September)

High on the list of the world’s mysteries is the enigmatic Bermuda Triangle, an area of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea between Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico, where over the centuries hundreds of ships, planes and people are alleged to have disappeared without a trace.

Foremost in the line of investigators and researchers into the mysterious disappearances is Charles Berlitz, author of two best selling books, The Bermuda Triangle (1974), and Without a Trace (1978), in which he offers explanations and describes in great detail many of the puzzles surrounding craft that simply disappeared from the face of the sea, were found abandoned, or came to grief for no apparent reason.

Berlitz found that the rate of disappearances in or close to the Bermuda Triangle was greater than any other similar sized area of ocean anywhere in the world; that the weather was generally excellent at the time of the disappearances; that ships and planes rarely gave any hint of trouble prior to vanishing and that despite intensive air and sea rescue operations, no traces were ever found to explain the losses.

In Without a Trace, Berlitz lists 143 disappearances in the triangle (from 1800 to 1976), including vessels varying in size from speedboats through freighters to passenger ships, and 35 aircraft ranging from light planes to passenger aircraft. Among them, the well publicized disappearance of 5 TBM Avenger torpedo bombers (Flight 19), on December 5, 1945. Berlitz asserts that an average of 50 ships and 25 airplanes are gobbled up in the Triangle every year, most of them in the months of December to February. His descriptions of the last moments of some of the victims have led to all sorts of intriguing speculations to account for the losses, ranging from malfunctioning compasses caused by mysterious magnetic anomalies to abductions by UFOs.

Journalistic licence has contributed greatly to the establishment of the “mystery”, take for example this description in respect of the Sandra that appeared in a Fate magazine in 1952:
“The Sandra was a square cut tramp steamer, decorated here and there with rust spots along her 350 foot length. Radio equipped and loaded with 350 tons of insecticide, she leisurely thumped her way south in the heavily travelled coastal shipping lanes off Florida in June 1950. The crewmen who had finished mess, drifted to the aft deck to smoke and reflect upon the setting sun and what the morrow may bring. Through the tropical dusk that shrouded the peaceful Florida coast they watched the friendly blinking beacon at St. Augustine.”

The next morning they were all gone. Neither the ship nor the crew were ever seen again. They had silently vanished during the night under a starlit sky. No clue to help solve this baffling mystery has been found to this very day.”

On September 15, 1989, Australian round the world solo flyer Gabby Kennard set out from Miami for Barbados flying through the infamous Triangle and although she reported that she was terrified when her radio went dead for a period of thirty minutes, she came to no harm.

On closer examination of the facts, is there really anything mysterious about this particular area? The answer is a resounding NO. The so called mystery is a fabrication and undoubtedly much of the credit for promoting the non-mystery of the Bermuda Triangle must go to Charles Berlitz and others, whose books on the subject are replete with factual errors, technical mistakes and omissions. Berlitz’ innuendoes in particular lead the reader to draw false conclusions from the evidence presented among which are suggestions of strange forces that affect radios and compasses, atmospheric aberrations, time warps, abduction by UFOs, mysterious rays emanating from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis, magnetic and gravitational anomalies and reverse gravity fields.

Typical of the glaring inaccuracies is the inclusion of the Mary Celeste, as having been abandoned in the Triangle in 1872, despite the fact that she was found near the Azores on the other side of the Atlantic! The claims associated with disappearances in the Triangle are that the number of disappearances is abnormally high, that the weather at the time of disappearance was excellent, few of the ships and planes gave any hint of trouble before they went missing, that there are forces within the Triangle which cause equipment to malfunction, and that no traces are ever found to explain the losses.

Contrary to these assertions, Charles Cazeau and Stuart Scott in their book, Exploring the Unknown, show that given the total number of losses around the coast of the United States, those lost in the Bermuda Triangle are proportionately no more than would be expected. Of the losses claimed by Berlitz to have occurred within the Triangle only sixty three per cent actually did. In forty seven per cent of cases, traces of wreckage were found. Of the remainder it is more than likely that the flotsam and jetsam was dispersed by storms. While in nearly every part of the world compasses are subject to magnetic variations, navigators (in pre satellite days) had tables to calculate the corrections required, there is nothing mysterious or supernatural about a perfectly natural phenomenon. Today of course, with satellite navigation and other electronic aids, it’s almost impossible to disappear without a trace.

The propensity to believe that the Bermuda Triangle presents a greater danger to ships is evidently not shared by Lloyds of London. While they put a premium on insurance for vessels in the Persian Gulf during the 1992 confrontation, they do not deem it necessary for vessels plying those mysterious Caribbean waters, nor in the Sea of Japan which boasts of just as many ‘strange’ disappearances in an area of similar size.

In would not be unreasonable to suggest that journalistic licence has been abused by Berlitz and others in their accounts of the Triangle and this is made abundantly clear in a thoroughly researched book by Larry Kusche, The Bermuda Triangle Mystery  Solved (1986), in which he investigates each and every claim made in respect of the disappearances, and exposes the inaccuracies and faulty logic which have contributed to creating a fictional scenario accepted by many as fact.


Berlitz, Charles. 1978. Without a Trace. Granada Publishing.
___________ 1974. The Bermuda Triangle. Avon Books NY.
Grant, John. 1988. Great Mysteries. New Burlington Books.
Gerrand J. 1982. “The Valentich Mystery.” the Skeptic, 2(l):12 13 and 2(2):3 4.
Killey, K. and Lester, G. 1980. The Devil’s Meridian. Lester Townsend Publishing, Sydney.
Kusche, Larry. 1986. The Bermuda Triangle Mystery  Solved. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York.
Randi, James. 1986. Flim Flam. Prometheus Books. Buffalo. NY.
Winer, Richard. 1975. The Devil’s Triangle. Bantam Books.

[From: Harry Edwards, A Skeptic's Guide to the New Age]