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What is the Bermuda Triangle?

The Bermuda Triangle is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean in which ships, planes, and people are alleged to have mysteriously vanished.

Bermuda Triangle map

This map shows the general location of the infamous Bermuda Triangle.

For decades, the Atlantic Ocean’s fabled Bermuda Triangle has captured the human imagination with unexplained disappearances of ships, planes, and people.

Some speculate that unknown and mysterious forces account for the unexplained disappearances, such as extraterrestrials capturing humans for study; the influence of the lost continent of Atlantis; vortices that suck objects into other dimensions; and other whimsical ideas.  Some explanations are more grounded in science, if not in evidence.  These include oceanic flatulence (methane gas erupting from ocean sediments) and disruptions in geomagnetic lines of flux.

Environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances.  The majority of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes pass through the Bermuda Triangle, and in the days prior to improved weather forecasting, these dangerous storms claimed many ships.  Also, the Gulf Stream can cause rapid, sometimes violent, changes in weather.  Additionally, the large number of islands in the Caribbean Sea creates many areas of shallow water that can be treacherous to ship navigation. And there is some evidence to suggest that the Bermuda Triangle is a place where a “magnetic” compass sometimes points towards “true” north, as opposed to “magnetic” north. 

The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard contend that there are no supernatural explanations for disasters at sea.  Their experience suggests that the combined forces of nature and human fallibility outdo even the most incredulous science fiction. They add that no official maps exist that delineate the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle. The U. S. Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name and does not maintain an official file on the area.

The ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans, and when foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place.  This is true all over the world.  There is no evidence that mysterious disappearances occur with any greater frequency in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other large, well-traveled area of the ocean. 

This text of this Ocean Fact was posted on January 4, 2010, and has not been altered since then.

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