back to top

Notes For Unsolved: The Strangest Disappearances In The Bermuda Triangle

Research notes for Supernatural Season 2 Episode 5

Posted on

**Research compiled for Ryan & Shane on January 25, 2017 by Alaina Rook.

The Legend Begins: Flight 19

  • On December 5, 1945, five military airplanes on a routine training mission departed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at roughly 2:10 in the afternoon.

  • Reports say that the planes had all been checked before the mission and the weather was supposed to favorable.

  • Known as Flight 19, the five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers carried fourteen men, and were lead by instructor Lieutenant Charles Taylor.

  • Avengers are also known as very rugged and heavy planes (weighing as much as 10,000 lbs when empty), and were notoriously good at holding up in battle.

  • Pilots used to call them “Iron Birds”, according to naval historians.

  • Shortly after completing the training mission, Lieutenant Taylor became lost while in the area now known as the Bermuda Triangle.

  • In an era before GPS, pilots relied almost entirely on compasses, but apparently both of the compasses on Taylor’s plane were malfunctioning.

  • Transcripts of the in-flight communications also say that he was not wearing a watch nor were there any distinguishing landmarks (as they were in the middle of the ocean).

  • A pilot on the mission (who was not Taylor) was recorded sending an emergency transmission that was picked up by a control tower. He described the scene saying, “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”

  • About twenty minutes later, the pilot sent Flight 19’s last transmission. His voice allegedly distressed, he described the situation, “We can’t make out anything. We think we may be about 225 miles northeast of base… It looks like we are entering white water. We’re completely lost.”

  • Because of the Avenger’s size, the planes went down hard and fast, likely quickly descending to the bottom of the ocean.

  • The chances of surviving the crash landing at sea were slim, but the chances of surviving the night in the frigid waters was pretty much zero.

  • Several minutes after the last transmission, a PBM Mariner flying boat took off on a rescue mission.

  • The boat was nicknamed a “flying gas tank” as they were known to easily combust, and its Naval production was halted in 1949.

  • It only radioed through to the control tower once before also disappearing.

  • A ship in the area did report seeing a huge fireball crossing through an oil slick around the same time and place as the plane could have been.

  • Naval reports show there was debris in the oil slick but it was unable to be retrieved due to rough conditions.

  • For the next five days, a huge search of land and sea was undertaken looking for the bodies and the wreckage but nothing was ever found.

  • Ships and planes searched over 250,000 square miles throughout the Atlantic Ocean and The Gulf of Mexico

  • There are discrepancies as to the conditions that were experienced at that time: while the legend claims searchers found clear conditions and calm seas, naval records show high winds and seas and low, dark clouds.

  • It is said that originally, the Navy’s final report of the incident was blamed on pilot error. However, Taylor’s family protested tarnishing his reputation, and ultimately the disappearance was changed to unknown causes.

  • Allegedly, the report concludes: “We are not able to even make a good guess as to what happened.”

The Bermuda Triangle: Logistics

  • The Bermuda Triangle is an area of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda.

  • There are some disputes over its actual range, but some estimate it covers between 500,000 to a million square miles.

  • The term “The Bermuda Triangle” didn’t come into use until 1964 (when it was coined by Vincent Gaddis in a cover story for Argosy magazine) to describe the area where there seemed to be an “uncommon” amount of disappearances of ships and planes.

  • Allegedly, the first recorded account of strange occurrences in The Bermuda Triangle were made by Christopher Columbus in his famous first journey to “discover” America in 1492.

  • In the account it is said he noted the that the ship’s compass began malfunctioning strangely, mysterious lights over the water, and at one point he even saw a fireball fly through the sky and crash into the sea.

  • However, at the time, they were running low on food and morale amongst the crew was already low, so allegedly Columbus was trying to be SO LOW KEY about the crazy things they were witnessing.

  • On September 17 he described issues with the compass saying, “ The pilots took the sun's amplitude, and found that the needles varied to the northwest a whole point of the compass; the seamen were terrified, and dismayed without saying why.

  • He says that the ship’s Admiral discovered the cause saying, “The cause was that the star moved from its place, while the needles remained stationary.”

  • On October 11, Columbus wrote they had “encountered a heavier sea than they had met with before in the whole voyage”

  • In addition described the crew seeing mysterious lights on the water saying, “The Admiral at ten o'clock that evening standing on the quarter-deck saw a light, but so small a body that he could not affirm it to be land; calling to Pero Gutierrez, groom of the King's wardrobe, he told him he saw a light, and bid him look that way, which he did and saw it; he did the same to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, whom the King and Queen had sent with the squadron as comptroller, but he was unable to see it from his situation. The Admiral again perceived it once or twice, appearing like the light of a wax candle moving up and down, which some thought an indication of land.”

  • Later that night they did run into land.

  • According to Time, between 1946 and 1991 alone, there were over 100 disappearances of ships and planes in The Bermuda Triangle.

  • HOWEVER, In order to include disappearances in The Bermuda Triangle, authors have often widened the span of the area.

  • Some disappearances included on lists of mysteries about The Bermuda Triangle may have actually taken place thousands of miles away from the conventional boundaries such as in the Gulf of Mexico or the northwest Atlantic Ocean.

Other Notorious Bermuda Triangle Disappearances: The Cyclops; The Ellen Austin, the 1950s, the Trislander

The Ellen Austin (1881): According to legend, in 1881, the Ellen Austin (there has been some dispute over if it was a British or American Ship) was sailing on a transatlantic journey, when it came across an unnamed “ghost ship” floating in the water with no crew aboard.

  • The captain sent men aboard to scavenge it and to man the ship so they could bring to back with them to their final port in London, which could potentially make them more money .

  • However, after just two days, the two ships lost each other during a storm.

  • Eventually, the Ellen Austin spotted the ship again… but the boat was empty and the crew they had sent aboard had completely disappeared.

The Cyclops (1918): On March 4, 1918, one of the Navy’s largest fuel ships, the U.S.S. Cyclops, disappeared somewhere north of Barbados, while carrying 10,800 tons of manganese ore from Brazil to Baltimore.

  • While the Navy searched extensively for signs of the ship and nearly 300 passengers and crewmembers no trace was ever found, and they never declared a definite cause for its disappearance.
  • Adding to the mystery of the disappearance was the fact that the captain never sent out a distress signal. Additionally, no one aboard answered any of the calls from the hundreds of ships that were reportedly in the vicinity.
  • At the time, theories surrounding the disappearance ranged from giant octopuses to German U-Boats, though both were disavowed by the Navy.
  • Recent evidence has lead some to believe that the actual cause was a mutiny against the widely-disliked captain that went wrong.

Mass of Disappearances in the 1940s-1950s that started the real frenzy

After the infamous incident of Flight 19 in 1945, there seemed to be a mass of highly-publicized disappearances throughout the next two decades, that added to the mystique and fixation with the Bermuda Triangle. By the 1970s there was a mass of books and magazines articles devoted to discussing the phenomenon. Some of the disappearances over the next few years include:

  • A C-54 leaving from Bermuda in 1947
  • The Tudor Star Tiger leaving from Santa Maria, Azores, in 1948
  • Flight DC-3 leaving from Puerto Rico in 1948
  • The cargo ships Sandra and the Southern Districts in 1950 and 1951.
  • Witchcraft disappearance
  • Little to no trace of these lost vessels was ever uncovered.

The Trislander (2008): In a more recent incident, on December 15, 2008, a small Trislander plane taking off from the Dominican Republic heading to the Bahamas, disappeared from Caribbean screen radar screens about 35 minutes into its flight.

  • Some sources say they had sent out a distress call before the disappearances.

  • The US Coast Guard launched a search for it with two helicopters, seven ships, and over 100 rescuers for the plane and its 12 occupants, but no trace of the wreckage or bodies were found.

  • Confusion surrounding the disappearance were aggravated by the fact that the plane seemed to have been stolen, and possibly at that moment, the passengers may have been involved in human trafficking on their way to the US.

  • Theoretically, the plane could have landed with their human cargo in the US, though there is no way to be sure.

  • (In the reverse, it also many have gone down with its human cargo.)


Science: There are a variety of natural factors that make The Bermuda Triangle a dangerous place for sailing including:

  • Most hurricanes and other tropical storms in the Atlantic pass through the Bermuda Triangle.
  • The Gulf Stream--an intense, rapid, warm ocean current--runs like a river through The Bermuda Triangle and can cause violent changes in weather.
  • Storms and unpredictable atmospheric conditions can cause phenomenons like dangerous “waterspouts” (which look like water tornados).
  • There are many islands in the Caribbean which can have unexpectedly shallow waters which are difficult to navigate, where there also may be many shoals and reefs with strong currents.
  • It also has some of the deepest underwater trenches within it, so wreckage could have potentially fallen far beneath the ocean’s surface.
  • For example, the majority of the sea floor of The Bermuda Triangle is about 19,000 feet below the sea, but at a trench near Puerto Rico reaches nearly 28,000 feet below sea level.
  • However, the official position of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard is that a combination of nature and human error are actually responsible for the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle and that there is no credible supernatural explanation
  • They also add that no maps exist to give official boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle.
  • In part, this may be because the U. S. Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle’s name, nor does it keep a file on the area.
  • Additionally, scientific research show that there is no evidence that disappearances happen more frequently in The Bermuda Triangle than in any other part of the ocean (FEAR HER MAJESTY, Y’ALL).
  • John Reilly, a historian with the U.S. Naval Historical Foundation, has said on the matter, “The region is highly traveled and has been a busy crossroads since the early days of European exploration… To say quite a few ships and airplanes have gone down there is like saying there are an awful lot of car accidents on the New Jersey Turnpike—surprise, surprise."

Crazy Science: Magnetic Phenomenon: The Bermuda Triangle is one of the few locations in the world (one other is The Devil’s Sea off Japan’s coast, which has a similar eerie reputation) where true north and magnetic north line up, which some research indicates may affect compass readings.

  • In this phenomenon a “magnetic” compass could turn towards “true” north, as opposed to “magnetic” north.
  • True North: (also known as Geographic North) is the geographic north pole where all longitude lines meet. All maps are laid out with true north directly at the top.
  • Magnetic North: Because of the earth’s magnetic fields and its molten core, the magnetic poles don’t correspond to the Geographic North Pole and are always shifting slightly. Compass needles are magnetized to rotate until it lies in the same direction as the earth's magnetic field.
  • So while the general direction the compass points you is correct, the exact degree to which it is pointing could be as much as 20 degrees off in some areas of the world in relation to the poles.
  • The difference between the two numbers must be calculated to get accurate readings of location in a process called Magnetic Declination.
  • Some science indicates that the lightning during storms may further affect or intensify the magnetic fields, which may also account for compass/electrical machinery failures and radio interference.
  • The rare phenomenon of “ball lightning” may also form in such electrical stormsWhich could account for the “strange lights” reported being seen in The Bermuda Triangle, like the ones Columbus reported.

Crazy Science: Methane Bubbles: A more recent theory, which has continued to be developed by scientific researchers at the Arctic University of Norway posit that explosions of natural gas beneath the surface could be responsible for the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle.In their work in the Barents Sea (in the Arctic Ocean) they found huge craters (a half a mile wide and over 150 feet deep) that were caused by explosive methane trapped beneath the seafloor.

  • They said that gas explosions could be dangerous to ships, and some believe the methane could even escape into the air where it could create turbulent atmospheric conditions for airplanes.
  • However, there is still not enough testing to determine the consequences to these “burps” of gas
  • Additionally, there is still no evidence that these types of craters even exist within the Bermuda Triangle.

Crazy Theories

Pirates: Up until the 1900s, piracy was a major issue in the Caribbean sea trade, which may account for many of the earlier disappearances especially.

  • Pirates at the time may have commandeered the ship and all its cargo, killing the rest of the crew. In other cases, they might take what they wanted and leave the ship empty to drift.
  • This was one theory that was posed in the case of the Ellen Austin, however, reports from the crew allegedly claimed that there was no visible damage to indicate a pirate attack.
  • However, even today piracy is still an issue in the Caribbean, and accounts of yachts
  • being attacked has been increasing in recent years (as luxury cruise travel has also become increasingly popular). Hundreds of piracy incidents were accounted for between 2004 and 2008 alone.The pirates were notably armed with dangerous and violent weapons like machetes.

Atlantis: Atlantis is the legendary island civilization that existed, which were written about by Plato though it was supposed to have existed 9,000 years before his time.

  • They were supposed to an ancient naval power, but according to legend, the entire kingdom disappeared into the sea in the just day.
  • In the 1970s, a writer named Charles Berlitz hypothesized that Atlantis disappeared into the sea in the Bermuda Triangle (perhaps itself as a victim of the “Bermuda Triangle”).
  • Some have said that this is supported by the fact that there are rock formations in the Bahamas (off the coast of Bimini) that look like man-made walls and streets. Scientists, however, have found them to be naturally-formed rock formations.
  • Berlitz further hypothesized that the technology of the people of Atlantis may have been the continued source of the mysteriously sinking ships and planes.
  • There are some who believe that time operates differently in Atlantis, and those who have been lost in the Bermuda Triangle have continued to live there as a part of Atlantean society.

Extraterrestrial: Some say the unexpected disappearances can be explained by the theory that they were captured by UFOs.

  • There are even some who claim that there is a secret US Navy Base in the Bahamas linked to aquatic alien activity, which is sometimes called “underwater Area 51.”

  • In 2011, a Swedish scientist named Peter Lindberg spotted something submerged in the Baltic Sea using sonar technology, which others then believed was a UFO vessel because of its “perfectly round shape.”

  • However, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to prove this, and even the supposition that the shape is “perfectly round” as unprovable as the sonar images were too low-resolution to be conclusive.

  • In 2014, at least two passengers on a Carnival Cruise off the coast of Florida said they saw a UFO (or potential military drone) fly over them in the middle of the day.

  • A video of the alleged event was uploaded to YouTube by a user called “thirdphaseofmoon”:
  • Some speculate in the comments that the military may have designed the drones to look like UFOs on purpose, so they can spy more easily on other countries.

In the online community source, National UFO Reporting Center, the most recent alien encounter in the Bermuda Triangle to date was reported on January 6, 2016. The commenter describes the event as follows:

“On Dec. 28, 2015, while onboard a cruise ship headed north from a day in Nassau, I had just told my family to be on the lookout for strange lights that night as we were passing through the Bermuda Triangle. It was a beautiful clear night. At 7:45pm... I noticed an amber light in the northwest sky that was not moving. I called my two teenage sons out to the balcony and told them the light appeared to be several miles away and was too low for an aircraft and too high for another ship. We watched for 10 minutes and the craft finally headed toward our ship! The craft came within 100 feet of our ship, 100 feet above the deck. It hovered for about 30 seconds, then it turned and headed west, faster than it had approached our ship.”

Time Warps (anomalies in spacetime): Vincent Gaddis (who also coined the name for The Bermuda Triangle) put forth the hypothesis that the disappearances may be related to “gateway” to another universe (which others have interpreted as a black hole)

  • Some say this also accounts for the fact that travel times in the region can be unpredictable, with some flights getting to their destination faster than usual
  • Though this could also be because of the strong winds or navigational issues.
  • In the 1970s, pilot Bruce Gernon testified that he had escaped an incident in The Bermuda Triangle which he described as an “Electronic Fog.
  • He describes that his plane became caught in a tube of clouds, and when he tried to escape he found his vessel submerged in a grey haze of “electronic fog” which made all of his compasses fail.
  • He claims that he flew blindly for three minutes before hearing the radio turn on and a controller saying they had located his plane over Miami. When he looked down at his watch, 40 minutes had passed-- but he had traveled a distance comparable to 90 minutes of flight.
  • Some have used the scientific findings of an unconventional Canadian scientist named John Hutchison to explain the existence of “Electronic Fog.”
  • In his experiments, Hutchison found that electromagnetic fields could interfere with each other, and when such a phenomenon occurred “astonishing” things could happen-- which has become known as “The Hutchison Effect.”
  • Such as making metals glow, change form, or become disfigured.
  • Others have claimed that disappearances may be due to the two wormholes in The Bermuda Triangle, which according to “transmissions from off-planet sources” they lie at 32 degrees north latitude, 69.5 degrees west longitude, and at 30 degrees north latitude, 69.5 degrees west longitude.
  • In this theory, the wormholes function in a way that connects the multiverses.
  • According to these theorists it is difficult to say how large the area around the wormholes may be affected, but the “wormhole geometry” may extend beyond itself to include tributary wormholes, or mini-wormholes, to form a wormhole matrix.
  • This may account for those disappearances that did not take place within range of the actual wormholes.