Everyone's heard the stories about the Bermuda Triangle – the mysterious tales of ships and planes going missing in this infamous zone have been told for centuries.
The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is currently winging its way north and will pass through the Triangle in the next 24 hours – so we thought we'd check out what all the fuss is about. Laws of physics, paranormal episodes or extraterrestrial activity? Here's what we found out...
Triangle? What triangle? OK, first things first. There's nothing official about the Bermuda Triangle. It's not a registered territory, and it's not even shown on maps. But it's understood that it stretches from Miami, Florida to the island of Bermuda, and to San Juan in Puerto Rico.
A mystery since the fifties. The earliest instances of unusual disappearances in the area were reported in 1950 – and in the almost seven decades since, speculation has been rife about the actual cause of a number of weird happenings.
It's true that there have been a lot of strange disappearances. Only between 1945 and 1965, Wikipedia states that up to five planes crashed in the area, and that 10 ships sank or disappeared from 1800 to 1963. Other pages or websites reference much, much longer lists.
Blink and you'll miss it. The area is known for extremely violent and unexpected storms, which build up and dissipate quickly.
Don't rely on your compass. The Bermuda Triangle is one of only two places on Earth where a compass points to true north rather than magnetic north. If this compass variation or error is not compensated for, ships and planes could find themselves far off course.
It's one of the deepest spots on earth. In fact, the underwater topography of the area could be a factor in the history of disappearances. It goes from a gently sloping continental shelf to an extremely deep drop-off. Some of the deepest trenches in the world are found in the area of the Bermuda Triangle. Ships or planes that sink into these deep trenches will probably never be found.
Can you smell gas? Scientists have discovered large concentrations of methane gas – due to decomposing sea organisms – trapped in the ocean floor. The methane accumulates as super concentrated methane ice, and if a pocket ruptures, the gas surges up and erupts on the surface without warning. If a ship is in the area of the blowout, the water beneath it would suddenly become much less dense. It could sink and sediment could quickly cover it as it settles onto the sea floor.
It plays havoc with instruments on deck. Magnetic vortices, hot and cold currents, could create the electromagnetic gymnastics affecting instruments and vehicles. Others mention an electronic fog that could block both the visibility and the instruments.
Don't look up. The area has one of the highest incidences of UFO sightings and alien abductions have been a popular explanation for the disappearances. But abductions aren't the only theory; some believe it’s a portal to other planets.
Welcome to the Atlantis* Ocean. Many theorise that the Triangle is home to the lost city of Atlantis. According to legend and speculation, the city of Atlantis relied on the power of special energy crystals that were extremely powerful. The theory is that these energy crystals are in an altered state of some kind and send out rays of energy that confuse navigation.
But it could all come down to a fairly simple fact...
The area is one of the most highly trafficked for amateur pilots and sailors, and one of the most heavily traveled shipping lanes in the world. Statistically, more traffic leads to more accidents and disappearances. Sounds logical, right?
What do the sailors think about it?
"I read all the stories of boats & planes dissapearing," says Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking. "But in all the times I've raced through the Bermuda Triangle, never has anything strange happened – well, maybe the only thing I remember is that in some races we've had ferocious thunderstorms and got hit by lightning once, killing all the electronics onboard." Sounds pretty suspicious to us, Bouwe!