What’s the real science behind the “Bermuda Triangle”?

Every few years, a story goes viral claiming that experts have finally ‘solved’ the Bermuda Triangle mystery.

Maybe it’s strange hexagonal clouds acting as “air bombs”, rogue waves, or perhaps some freak whirlpools.

But there’s one problem with all of these ‘solutions’ – the Bermuda Triangle doesn’t actually exist, and there is no ‘mystery’ to solve.

There are actually no extra unexplained plane crashes and shipwrecks in the area, despite what you might have heard.

The name Bermuda Triangle refers to a region of ocean bordered by Florida, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico, and it was first brought to public attention back in the 1950s by a journalist named Edward Van Winkle Jones, who wrote a story for the Associated Press about a large number of ships and planes that had disappeared in the region.

The idea really took off in the 1970s, when Charles Berlitz published the best-selling The Bermuda Triangle, and everyone started speculating about UFOs or rogue waves that were frequenting the region.

But the problem was, no one had actually fact-checked the claims of boats and planes going missing in the first place. And when journalist Larry Kusche did go over the facts a few years later, he discovered there was no mystery to solve in the first place.

The ‘mysterious disappearances’ everyone was freaking out over were either reporting mistakes or outright fabrications. But the idea proved remarkably resilient.

As Benjamin Radford explained for Live Science in 2012:

“In some cases there’s no record of the ships and planes claimed to have been lost in the aquatic triangular graveyard; they never existed outside of a writer’s imagination. In other cases, the ships and planes were real enough – but Berlitz and others neglected to mention that they ‘mysteriously disappeared’ during bad storms. Other times the vessels sank far outside the Bermuda Triangle.”

There are some real boats and ships that have gone missing in the region, but seeing as it’s one that’s frequented by tankers, cruise ships, charter planes, and small pleasure ships – as well as the location of hurricane alley and the notorious Gulf Stream, that’s not all that surprising.

Kusche published a book on the subject, The Bermuda Triangle Mystery – Solved, in 1975, but despite converting a few former believers, the myth of the Bermuda Triangle remained. Who knows how long it will last.

An earlier version of this article was published in October 2016.

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