5X5 Episode 84

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5X5 Episode 84
Bermuda Triangle
25th January 2010

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5X5 83 5X5 85
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
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Bermuda Triangle[edit]

You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide 5x5, five minutes with five skeptics, with Steve, Jay, Rebecca, Bob and Evan.

S: This is the SGU 5x5 and tonight we are talking about the Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's triangle. This is a triangular area in the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, although it is reported to be of various sizes around that region. And legend has it that the area of the Bermuda Triangle is an area of unusual paranormal activity in which there is a large number, an unusual number of disappearances, missing ships and planes, and other unusual events.

E: And one of the first stories that was connected to that area of the Atlantic ocean, one of the most famous ships lost, was the USS Cyclops in 1918. The vessel was on it's way from Salvador to Baltimore, Maryland but it didn't arrive and it made an unscheduled stop in Barbados. No wreckage from the ship was ever found, no distress was ever received. Later on in September of 1950 there was an associated press article that listed a bunch of other occurrences in the 1940s that had occurred in the same region, several planes and some other ships that were also said to have disappeared in that time, but it wasn't until February of 1964 in an issue of Argosy Magazine, in which an article called 'the Deadly Bermuda Triangle' argued that the famous Flight 19 and other disappearances were part of a pattern of strange events in the region.[1] M: That's right, and Flight 19 was a routine training mission launched on December 5th 1945 for five Avenger torpedo bombers. Flight 19 disappeared and was never heard from again. Radio messages picked up from Flight 19 indicated that the planes' compasses malfunctioned and that they had to attempt a water landing in rough seas because they ran out of fuel. The connection to the supernatural was first proposed by Allan Eckert in a 1962 article he wrote in American Legion magazine about Flight 19.[2] But like Evan said, it wasn't until 1964 that the term Bermuda Triangle was coined by Gaddis in Argosy Magazine.

J: So a lot of the reasons that people come up with, these disappearances, explosions and everything were from supernatural sources, like one of the funniest ones, I think, is it's left over technology from the continent of Atlantis. So also related to Bimini Road which was proposed by Edgar Cayce, who stated that the natural rock formation that you can see from the sky looks like a large landing strip, kind of, and he surmised that aliens were using that, that there were like portals to other planets, and aliens were coming and going, and that there was alien abductions, so like some people were believing that people were literally taken out of the air-planes, or boats, mid-flight or mid-transport. Also other explanations are anomalous and unexplained forces like magnetic abnormalities which are blamed for compass malfunctions, as an example.

B: But, like so much of the paranormal, the closer you look at the facts of the Bermuda Triangle, the less mysterious it becomes. Even confirmed wrecks and disappearances are not unusual when you consider the size of the Bermuda Triangle and the huge amount of air and ship traffic that it seas. The two primary problems with the Bermuda triangle is, as I see it. 1) Many of the planes and ships that for decades have been said to have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, actually disappeared nowhere near, some of them not even in the same ocean. and 2) there is simply no good scientific evidence that any of the claimed disappearances involve anything paranormal, extra-dimensional, extra-terrestrial, or even Atlantian. So what you are left with is just what you would expect. Over the years a tiny percentage of vessels sink, crash or disappear, just like they do the world over. Most accidents happen during weather or human error. There is always going to be a residue though of events and accidents that have no obvious explanation, that does not mean that the supernatural or wildy improbable theories need to be invoked.

S: That's right, you have to remember that these things are happening over the open ocean and the ocean has a way of swallowing up all the evidence, ships and planes that go down rapidly sink and they are never heard from again because they are at the bottom of the ocean. The evidence disappears and ... Bob was absolutely right, that when you look at the amount of ship traffic through this part of the ocean, the number of disappearances is about what you would expect for that amount of traffic, and in fact it is also an area of the sea where there is a lot of drug trade, which can account for a lot of piracy. Drug traffickers will steal a yacht, use it for one or two trips and then scuttle it and go on to the next one. So there is plenty of mundane explanations for the reported disappearances and the Bermuda Triangle is an explanation in search of a mystery, but there really isn't a mystery to be had.

S: SGU 5x5 is a companion podcast to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, a weekly science podcast brought to you by the New England Skeptical Society in association with skepchick.org. For more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at www.theskepticsguide.org. Music is provided by Jake Wilson.


  1. Gaddis, Vincent (1964), "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle", Argosy (text)
  2. Eckert, Allen W. (April 1962). "The Lost Patrol". American Legion.
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