Strange Geometry

The Bermuda Triangle's horrors

    Photo: Photograph by Dan Winters

A region of the Atlantic triangulated from the three points of Bermuda, Miami, and Puerto Rico, the Bermuda Triangle—a.k.a. "the Devil's Triangle"—is still baffling us. Just five years ago, 50-year-old Paul Vance and Doug Gerdon, 55, were in a sailboat 12 miles off West Palm Beach, Florida, when something very strange happened. The pals from Indiana had planned to use the engines to reach the Bahamas, then hoist sails to return. But just at nightfall something flew overhead, stopped, and hovered. Judging from its searchlight, the men estimate it was about half a mile away and 1,000 feet up. Vance, who has a pilot's license, didn't think too much of it—until, he claims, the boat's motor failed and a cloud of mist suddenly formed under the light and began spinning.

"It was really shocking," Vance says. "I used to read Bermuda Triangle books as a kid, but I never bought into it." After several minutes, the light dove into the mist, which then began glowing orange. Soon it all dissipated to reveal a starry sky.

Since 1800, more than 1,000 ships and boats have inexplicably gone missing there, as well as 200 airplanes since World War II. In 1945, five torpedo bombers on a training mission off the Florida coast disappeared without a trace after the leader reported a malfunctioning compass. A plane dispatched to rescue them was never heard from again, either. Early in the morning of February 4, 1963, the SS Marine Sulphur Queen, traveling from Texas to Virginia with a bellyful of molten brimstone, should have been cruising easily through the Bermuda Triangle, but sometime after a sailor radioed the mainland the night before, the ship—and all 39 men aboard—vanished.

"It's the most tangible of the world's mysteries," says Gian Quasar, author of Into the Bermuda Triangle. "We know these ships and aircraft existed, who was on board, and where they were."

Some say movement in the earth's core makes the area prone to electromagnetic vortices that disrupt compasses. In 1986, a pilot on a flight from Bermuda to Jacksonville, Florida, claimed an "electronic fog" had appeared out of nowhere, stuck to the sides of his plane, and stayed there for four hours, during which his digital instruments read 8888888. As for how the Sulphur Queen could have disappeared fast enough to thwart even a mayday call, one theory holds that immense bubbles of methane rising from rifts in the ocean floor—the result of stores of the gas building up beneath—sank her in a matter of seconds. For 27 days the search went on. One of her life jackets was discovered off the Dry Tortugas. But of the men and their vessel, nothing.

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