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Bermuda Triangle, region of the western Atlantic Ocean that has become associated in the popular imagination with mysterious maritime disasters. Also known as the Devil's Triangle, the triangle-shaped area covers about 1,140,000 sq km (about 440,000 sq mi) between the island of Bermuda, the coast of southern Florida, and Puerto Rico.
The sinister reputation of the Bermuda Triangle may be traceable to reports made in the late 15th century by navigator Christopher Columbus concerning the Sargasso Sea, in which floating masses of gulfweed were regarded as uncanny and perilous by early sailors; others date the notoriety of the area to the mid-19th century, when a number of reports were made of unexplained disappearances and mysteriously abandoned ships. The earliest recorded disappearance of a United States vessel in the area occurred in March 1918, when the USS Cyclops vanished.
The incident that consolidated the reputation of the Bermuda Triangle was the disappearance in December 1945 of Flight 19, a training squadron of five U.S. Navy torpedo bombers. The squadron left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with 14 crewmen and disappeared after radioing a series of distress messages; a seaplane sent in search of the squadron also disappeared. Aircraft that have disappeared in the area since this incident include a DC-3 carrying 27 passengers in 1948 and a C-124 Globemaster with 53 passengers in 1951. Among the ships that have disappeared was the tanker ship Marine Sulphur Queen, which vanished with 39 men aboard in 1963.
Books, articles, and television broadcasts investigating the Bermuda Triangle emphasize that, in the case of most of the disappearances, the weather was favorable, the disappearances occurred in daylight after a sudden break in radio contact, and the vessels vanished without a trace. However, skeptics point out that many supposed mysteries result from careless or biased consideration of data. For example, some losses attributed to the Bermuda Triangle actually occurred outside the area of the triangle in inclement weather conditions or in darkness, and some can be traced to known mechanical problems or inadequate equipment. In the case of Flight 19, for example, the squadron commander was relatively inexperienced, a compass was faulty, the squadron failed to follow instructions, and the aircraft were operating under conditions of deteriorating weather and visibility and with a low fuel supply. Other proposed explanations for disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle include the action of physical forces unknown to science, a “hole in the sky,” an unusual chemical component in the region's seawater, and abduction by extraterrestrial beings.
Scientific evaluations of the Bermuda Triangle have concluded that the number of disappearances in the region is not abnormal and that most of the disappearances have logical explanations. Paranormal associations with the Bermuda Triangle persist in the public mind, however.
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