Mysteries Of The Sea

Here is a look at some of the most popular myths, legends, and superstitions to ever sail the seas.

There is little about nature which has inspired more myths and legends than the watery expanse of the sea. From the voyages of Odysseys and Jason to the enigma of the Bermuda Triangle, the deep waters of the world have inspired a whole mythology, unparalleled in history. Even the unpredictable nature of ocean currents and storms have spawned fear and fascination in the hearts and minds of humanity. But when one thinks of sea mysteries, one of the first that comes to mind is the Bermuda Triangle. What is this strange plot of ocean real estate, and why does it inspire so many tales?

The Bermuda Triangle is an imaginary triangle of lines which stretch from Norfolk, Virginia, in the United States, to Puerto Rico, and joining at the island of Bermuda, from which it takes its name. Stories of strange occurrences in this region are nearly as old as water travel. The Native Americans who inhabited the region called the waters cursed, claiming that no man who fished those waters ever returned alive. Given to ancient superstition, this was likely an exaggeration built on the fact that strong cross currents and swiftly brewing storms in the region often capsized the crude fishing craft and thus drowned the occupants.

These same explanations, however, do not cover later mysteries connected to the Bermuda Triangle. Christopher Columbus was the first European to ever record strange occurrence in the region. Specifically, he recorded in his log that he saw a ball of fire in the sky. Later, the islands of the region were said to be used by pirates and even haunted by the ghosts of their victims, and soon became known as "the Devil's Islands."

It is said that Columbus' compass went haywire (an occurrence which would continue to effect compasses for centuries afterward), and that his crew saw strange and frightening lights in the sky. Columbus was not the first, and certainly not the last, to claim the region to be full of mysterious energies. One of the first strange disappearances eventually attributed to the Bermuda Triangle is that of the crew of the Mary Celeste, in 1892. Though the vessel was found, deserted at high seas, off the coast of Portugal, later theorists have claimed that the Bermuda Triangle is still a valid explanation for her crew's sudden disappearance. Scientists and historians, however, remain sceptical at best. For the first, Mary Celeste should never have sailed anywhere near the Triangle, as she left New York City and was bound for Genoa, Italy. It is also highly unlikely that the ship could have sailed, intact, across choppy ocean currents without a crew to guide her.

For all these seaborne mysteries attributed to the Bermuda Triangle, it is in the air that the legends begin in earnest, around the end of World War II. On December 5, 1945, a flight of US Avenger bombers disappeared in one of the most famous cases of the Bermuda Triangle. After a final communication that their compasses were malfunctioning, Fort Lauderdale, Florida lost contact with all five aircraft. When it appeared that the flight would not be re-establishing contact, the Navy dispatched a

search and rescue party. This party included the Martin Mariner, which many claim also disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. Some, however, claim this was not the case, and that the Mariner blew up barely twenty-three seconds after takeoff, in a witnessed explosion. Regardless of which was the case with the Mariner, no wreckage from the Avenger Flight 19 has ever been recovered, and no survivors have ever come forward to explain what happened.

Among the famous accidents and disappearances attributed to the Triangle are the USS Cyclops, which disappeared enroute to Norfolk in 1918, the Enchantress, last seen off the coast of South Carolina in 1965, the Air Force Tender, enroute to the Azores in 1962, and several commercial airliners between 1948 and 1950.

There have been many theories posed over the years, attempting to explain the phenomena of the Bermuda Triangle. One of the most popular among sceptics is that it's all a big fraud. This theory claims there's a very logical reason that no wreckage is ever discovered. No vessels or planes were ever actually lost. However, none of the subscribers to this theory have ever been able to produce any of the craft or people which have disappeared in the Triangle. If it all really is a hoax, then it is the oldest and most complex hoax ever designed.

The next most popular of the theories is far more scientific and respectable. Its supporters claim, and can prove, that a compass doesn't always point to true North, but rather to magnetic North, a phenomenon referred to as compass variation. These theorists claim that the area of the Bermuda Triangle has a high magnetic reading, which causes the compasses to go haywire. This theory certainly does explain the compass problems, but still does nothing to solve the puzzling disappearances.

There are, of course, far more imaginative theories as well, including psychic Ed Snedecker's twisting sucker, a funnel of space-time distortion which sucks in any craft too near it as it circles in the region. There is also the anti-matter theory, which claims that the craft disappear due to a split between this world of matter and an unseen world of anti-matter.

Whatever phenomenon is responsible for it, the Bermuda Triangle is not the only mystery asea. There are many other mysteries which are attached to the sea, including sunken Atlantis, a mystery which has endured for millennia, and the Flying Dutchman, whose blasphemy cursed him to sail forever. It is said that any ship which comes in contact with the Flying Dutchman is destined to sink, and its crew to die. More grisly tales even say that the crew of the ship which hails the Flying Dutchman will be cursed to sail forever, on board the ghost ship. Then, there are superstitious tales of sirens and mermaids and the mighty albatross, each of whom could either curse or rescue sailors on the seas. Many sailors, even into Christian times, cast an offering overboard to the local God of the Sea, in hope of currying favour and gaining smooth sailing and, in the case of fishermen, a good catch.

Whatever the tale, whatever the mystery, the sea continues to inspire poets, dreamers, and sailors alike, granting humanity a rich and lively repertoire of sea stories.

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