Norwegian Scientists Unintentionally Provide Fuel for a Fringe Theory on the Bermuda Triangle
Scientists in Norway are making waves with an announcement this week that has unintentionally linked giant craters in the Barents Sea to the controversial Bermuda Triangle. They say that the craters could have been created by exploding natural gas which some say has the possibility of being dangerous for ships. The international media has run rampant with the idea and connected it to a fringe theory explaining the odd occurrences in the Bermuda Triangle.
According to National Geographic, the researchers of the Arctic University of Norway studying the craters found that they are up to a half mile (0.8 kilometer) wide and 150 feet (45 meters) deep. They believe that the craters were “caused by the explosive release of methane, also known as natural gas, that was trapped in the sediment below.”
Methane is normally solid under the pressure of the sea, but it is known that chunks of the substance can break off and form gas bubbles that logically rise to the surface. Thus, the current work may provide a scientific explanation for reports from sailors of water starting to bubble and foam with no apparent cause.
It is important to note that the Norwegian scientists from the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE) have not suggested that the craters are related to the Bermuda Triangle – others have taken the idea and run with it. They say on their website: “Multiple giant craters have been discovered on the ocean floor in the Barents Sea. Contrary to recent media reports, they are not connected to theories about Bermuda Triangle. They are however connected to huge blowouts of methane gas in the area during the last deglaciation.”
A photo showing the giant craters in the Barents Sea. (CAGE)
Specifically, Professor Karin Andreassen at CAGE, stated on the website:
“We have discovered many large craters on the seabed in the central Barents Sea. Analyses suggest that blowout of methane gas once the ice retreated after the last Ice Age formed these craters. We have yet to publish these results, so these are preliminary. What I can say is that we are not making any links to the Bermuda Triangle.”
Although there is much controversy by what is being presented in the media brouhaha, the Norwegian scientists have actually been studying seismic data of the giant craters in the Barents Sea "Multiple giant craters exist on the sea floor in an area in the west-central Barents Sea... are probably a cause of enormous blowouts of gas," say the researchers. "The crater area is likely to represent one of the largest hotspots for shallow marine methane release in the Arctic."
A research vessel, the L'Espoir in Bergen, Norway. (Sveter/ CC BY SA 3.0)
And it is that connection with methane gas release in the water that has set off a frenzy for people interested in the Bermuda Triangle and ship disappearances around the world.
Going back to 2003, David May and Joseph Monaghan suggested that the methane bubbles could sink ships – depending on the location of the ship to the gas bubble. They wrote in their article in the American Journal of Physics:
“Whether or not the ship will sink depends on its position relative to the bubble. If it is far enough from the bubble, it is safe. If it is exactly above the bubble, it also is safe, because at a stagnation point of the flow the boat is not carried into the trough. The danger position is between the bubble’s stagnation point and the edge of the mound where the trough formed.”
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The researchers were interested in how their hypothesis could explain a sunken vessel found near a site known as “The Witches Hole” in the North Sea (between Britain and continental Europe).
Regarding the disappearance of aircraft, National Geographic reported in their October publication "Strange But True," that "methane can escape into the air, making the atmosphere highly turbulent and perhaps causing aircraft to crash."
Structure of a gas hydrate (methane clathrate) block embedded in the sediment of hydrate ridge, off Oregon, USA. The gas hydrates were found during a research cruise with the German research ship FS SONNE in the subduction zone off Oregon in a depth of about 1200 meters in the upper meter of the sediment. (Wusel007/ CC BY SA 3.0)
However, it is also important to note that a proven case of gas bubbles rising to the surface and sinking an unfavorably-positioned ship has never been recorded, as Atlas Obscura reports.
Nevertheless, the notion that a sudden release of the gas potentially endangering ships, or even bringing down aircraft, is not new - May and Monaghan, the Russian scientist Igor Yeltsov, and some others have also toyed with the idea in the last few decades. Even though the CAGE scientists are not proposing a connection, some others have even directly referenced the role of gas hydrates in the disappearances of the Bermuda Triangle.
As Yeltsov, the deputy head of the Trofimuk Institute, reportedly said last year:
“There is a version that the Bermuda Triangle is a consequence of gas hydrates reactions. They start to actively decompose with methane ice turning into gas. It happens in an avalanche-like way, like a nuclear reaction, producing huge amounts of gas. That makes the ocean heat up and ships sink in its waters mixed with a huge proportion of gas.”
Furthermore, Benjamin Phrampus, an Earth scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told Live Science in 2014 that "Gas hydrate is known to exist along the U.S. North Atlantic continental margin, with a very large province on Blake Ridge (north of the Bermuda Triangle)."
A 1996 map showing worldwide distribution of confirmed or inferred offshore gas hydrate-bearing sediments. (Public Domain)
The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle is a region of ocean bordered by Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. It covers some 500,000 square miles of ocean. The legendary location has become notorious as a site of unexplained disappearances of ships and aircraft since it was named in a 1964 story by Vincent H. Gaddis in the American magazine Argosy.
One version showing the region of the Bermuda Triangle. (Public Domain)
But Gaddis was not the first to report on strange happenings and disappearances in the region. George X. Sands, wrote about “an unusually large number of strange accidents in that region” in Fate magazine in 1952.
And many years before him, History says on their website that the famous explorer Columbus noted odd happenings as he sailed through the region. They write:
“When Christopher Columbus sailed through the area on his first voyage to the New World, he reported that a great flame of fire (probably a meteor) crashed into the sea one night and that a strange light appeared in the distance a few weeks later. He also wrote about erratic compass readings, perhaps because at that time a sliver of the Bermuda Triangle was one of the few places on Earth where true north and magnetic north lined up.”
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Numerous unexplained disappearances have been linked to the Bermuda Triangle. Some examples are US Navy ships that have inexplicably vanished with their crew and cargo in 1918 and 1941. They reportedly sent no distress signals and disappeared somewhere on route between Barbados and Chesapeake Bay.
As for planes, the famous Flight 19 story is one of the best-known. History reports on the strange disappearance saying:
“In December 1945, five Navy bombers carrying 14 men took off from a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airfield in order to conduct practice bombing runs over some nearby shoals. But with his compasses apparently malfunctioning, the leader of the mission, known as Flight 19, got severely lost. All five planes flew aimlessly until they ran low on fuel and were forced to ditch at sea. That same day, a rescue plane and its 13-man crew also disappeared. After a massive weeks-long search failed to turn up any evidence, the official Navy report declared that it was “as if they had flown to Mars.””
TBF (Avengers) flying in formation over Norfolk, Va., September 1942. (Public Domain)
There are many proposed theories that have tried to explain the strange occurrences that seem to abound in the Bermuda Triangle. Some of the alternative hypotheses include: aliens, Atlantis, sea monsters, time warps, and reverse gravity fields.
Other researchers have suggested magnetic anomalies, waterspouts or, huge eruptions of methane gas from the ocean floor.
Despite the supernatural feeling of the disappearances, the location is not officially recognized by the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names do not identify it or accept it on their list. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that “The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard contend that there are no supernatural explanations for disasters at sea. Their experience suggests that the combined forces of nature and human fallibility outdo even the most incredulous science fiction.”
The USS Cyclops (one of the ships that supposedly disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle) in a 1911 photograph. (USN Photo)
The NOAA also states that:
“The ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans, and when foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place. This is true all over the world. There is no evidence that mysterious disappearances occur with any greater frequency in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other large, well-traveled area of the ocean.”
Sailors aboard the USNS Comfort photographed a life raft in the Atlantic waters off Bermuda during a search-and-rescue mission. (U.S. Navy Journalist 2nd Class J. Maurer)
More information on the Norwegian scientists’ research on the craters in the Barents Sea will be released in April at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union.
Featured Image: An example of a sinking tanker. AMOCO CADIZ grounding and oil spill, Brittany, France. Source: Public Domain