The Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle
Over the past century, hundreds of ships and planes have gone misplaced in a mysterious stretch of water in the Atlantic Ocean called the Bermuda Triangle. Is there a scientific explanation for these disappearances? Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda are prime holiday destinations daring sun, beaches and coral seas. But between these pleasant settings, there is a dark side: countless ships and planes have strangely gone missing in the one and a half million square miles of ocean sorting out them. About 60 years ago, the area was claiming about five planes every day and was nicknamed the Bermuda Triangle by a magazine in 1964. Today, about that many planes disappear in the region each year and there are a number of theories explaining what could be happening. The Bermuda Triangle, a stretch of water between Puerto Rico, Bermuda and Florida, has been the site of many plane and ship disappearances.
Twins George and David Rothschild are among the first passengers to have practiced bizarre effects in the Bermuda Triangle. In 1952, when they were 19 years old, the two sailing men had to make an emergency trip home on a navy light aircraft, north over the Florida Keys, to attend their father's interment. "We had been flying for probably 20 or 30 minutes when all of a sudden the pilot yelled out that the instruments were dead and he became very frantic," says George Rothschild. He had lost his bearings, and not only did he not know where he was, he also had no idea how much gas was left in the fuel tanks. After what seemed like hours, they landed safely in Norfolk, on the Florida coast.
Some wonder that it had nothing to do with the site, but rather the instruments that were accessible at the time. Pilot Robert Grant says that back in the 1940s, navigating a plane involved a lot of guesswork since they relied completely on a magnetic compass to guide them. "Dead reckoning" was used, which means that pilots would trust their compass and then estimate how the wind would power their planned flight path to remain on track. "No matter what your mind tells you, you must stay on that course," says Grant. "If you don't, and you start turning to wherever you think you should be going, then you're toast."
The scenery of the island of Bermuda is quite unique: it is a isolated coral reef precariously perched on a enormous extinct volcano. Fisherman Sloan Wakefield, who knows the waters of the Bermuda Triangle very well, thinks that the weather could be dependable for some of the disappearances. "Because the island is a dot in the Atlantic Ocean, it gets weather from everywhere and it can change in a heartbeat. One minute, you can be looking at good weather, and the next moment you've got a low front coming through," he says. He has already seen 15 to 20 foot (4.6m to 6m) waves on the sea. Hurricanes are ordinary in the Bermuda Triangle area. In the Atlantic Ocean, they classically originate off the African coast and thrive off the moisture of the warm, tropical waters. Storm records from the past 100 years have shown that they often head west for the United States but swerve into the waters of the Bermuda Triangle at the last minute. Jim Lushine, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Centre in Miami, Florida studies the weather in the Bermuda Triangle and says that there are more hurricanes in that picky area than in any other in the Atlantic basin.
Even more random than thunderstorms are waterspouts. These can be caused by tornadoes that move out to sea or revolving columns of air that drop from thunderstorms, creating a eddy of spray. When the damp condenses, it forms a perversion column that connects the sea to the clouds. Jim Edds, an amateur fisherman who chases and films waterspouts for fun, says that if you are out at night and a tornado-like waterspout develops - the really big, strong ones with high velocity - it can flip your vessel over.
Seismic action at the bottom of the ocean can also be an explanation for disappearing ships. Scientists have discovered that huge bubbles of methane gas can violently erupt without warning from the ocean floor and at least one oil rig is thought to have sunk because of this phenomenon. Ralph Richardson, the director of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, claims that a large pocket of gas could surround a ship, causing it to lose good spirits and disappear without warning.
At the U.S. Navy's research centre in California, Bruce Denardo, an specialist in fluid dynamics, has proved that bubbles from methane gas eruptions could be responsible for disappearance ships in the open ocean. Water pressure causes objects to float, and the deeper the water, the greater the stress exerted to keep the object floating at the surface. If bubbles from methane are introduced, they lower the density of the water. They take up space, but the volume of water stays the same, causing the buoyant force to decrease. In an trial with a ball in water, Denardo can demonstrate that the ball sinks deeper and deeper down in water as the amount of bubbles increases, until it reaches a critical point where it sinks completely. "If a ship were to take on enough water, it would sink to the bottom and stay there," says Denardo.
A mysterious time warp ?
Others have more distant out explanations for the Bermuda Triangle disappearances. Property developer Bruce Gernon claims that on December 4th 1970, when he flew from the island of Andross in the Bahamas to Florida, he practiced a distortion in space time. He had made the same trip on many occasions, but he claims that his journey that day was much earlier than usual. "I noticed a huge U-shaped opening in the clouds, but as I approached it, the top of the opening closed and it became a flat tunnel that appeared to be 10 to 15 miles long," he says. "When the aircraft entered the tunnel, some lines, which I call time lines, appeared which were revolving counter-clockwise. It was hard to keep it level and concentrate on the other end of the tunnel which was aiming directly for Miami."
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