Could mystery of Bermuda Triangle be solved?
A new theory about the mythic Bermuda Triangle has grabbed headlines across the world — although researchers are already shooting it down.
The theory, initially presented by the New York Post, suggested that sightings of hexagonal clouds up to 50 miles wide indicated “air bombs” capable of bringing 170mph winds — enough to bring down aircraft and sink ships.
The article quoted meteorologist Randy Cerveny as saying: “The satellite imagery is really bizarre ... the hexagonal shapes of the cloud formations.
“These types of hexagonal shapes in the ocean are in essence air bombs. They're formed by what is called microbursts and they're blasts of air.”
The story quickly spread online with dozens of media outlets publishing the findings.
But while the theory may have a more scientific basis than some — including alien abductions and submerged crystal pyramids — scientists have already raised issues with the explanation.
The first challenge is that the phenomenon is not uncommon and has been reported over the mid-North Atlantic and the North Pacific, not just the Bermuda Triangle.
A subsequent story published by USA Today said that the honeycomb-shaped formations pictured in the story occur when cold, dry air mixes over warm water. That newspaper also spoke with Dr Cerveny, who said he was “surprised” by the story as he had not done any original work on the topic and was speculating that the weather pattern might be the result of a concentrated downburst of air.
The second element of contention is that ships and planes don't disappear in the Bermuda Triangle any more than they do anywhere else. While several vessels have disappeared while travelling through the area between Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico, the number of disappearances is no greater than any other similarly trafficked part of the ocean.
Asked about the theory, James Dodgson, deputy director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said he would “tend to dismiss” the New York Post article, but added that no real local research has been done on the subject by the BWS so he was unable to provide a definitive answer.
The legend of the Bermuda Triangle emerged in the wake of the disappearance of Flight 19 — a group of five bombers that reportedly vanished in 1945. That incident was followed by several other aircraft disappearances in the next five years.
Media reports began to refer to the region as the Bermuda Triangle, or Devil's Triangle, in the 1950s, with Bermuda's own history as the Devil's Isles playing into the mystery. While many of the disappearances have subsequently been explained, the region's reputation was already cemented, inspiring numerous books and films.
Since the legend of the Bermuda Triangle began to spread more than 60 years ago, numerous theories have been put forward — some more grounded than others.
• Human error — one of the most common explanations for the loss of an aircraft or ship.
• Weather issues — the region’s well- known history of hurricanes has been blamed for several disappearances.
• Methane hydrates — rising methane bubbles from the ocean floor could theoretically cause ships to sink rapidly, but no such eruptions have been recorded in the area.
• Compass variations — magnetic anomalies are common, but no unusual local magnetic anomalies have been recorded in the region.
• The Gulf Stream — it has been theorised that the strong current could push wreckage away from where it was last reported.
• Alien abduction — a theory made famous in the Steven Speilberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
• Atlantis — some, such as author Charles Berlitz, suggested that the remnants of the mythical sunken city could have played a role in the disappearances.