The Devil’s Sea: Bermuda Triangle of the Pacific
The Devil’s Sea, otherwise known as the Dragon’s Triangle, is a region in the Pacific Ocean that has come to be associated with numerous accounts of disappearing ships and planes, sightings of ghost ships and islands, extreme weather and electro-magnetic disturbances, with historical accounts of strange phenomena stemming back at least 3,000 years. In ancient China, it was believed that a dragon with insatiable hunger pulled boats into the sea.
The Devil’s Sea (Ma No Umi in Japanese) is approximately located between the Japanese coast, about 100 km south of Tokyo, the east coast of the Philippines, level with Manilla, and the west coast of Guam, a U.S. island territory in Micronesia. It includes a major section of the Philippine Sea.
The Formosa Triangle contains most of the northeast Philippine Sea. ( Public domain )
The Twelve Vile Vortices
The Devil’s Sea region is purported to be one of twelve ‘Vile Vortices’ on the planet, a term coined by Scottish biologist Ivan T. Sanderson, who catalogued them as sites of high electromagnetic aberrations. The twelve sites are located in a pattern around the Earth, and are situated at the same latitudes north and south of the equator, the most famous one being The Bermuda Triangle.
Sanderson posited that the electromagnetic disturbances are caused by hot and cold currents crossing at these points, which could affect navigational instruments in vessels and perhaps account for missing ships and planes, and other mysterious phenomena.
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Map showing the approximate locations of the Vile Vortices. ( Public domain )
The Dragon with Insatiable Hunger
The ill-fated region was known about by the ancient Chinese, with old fables referring to it as far back as 1,000 BC. According to mythological accounts, a huge dragon inhabited this area of sea and lay in wait for any vessel to pass. The dragon with the insatiable hunger would drag any boat that crossed its path into the sea, never to be seen of again.
“Realistically, since this part of the oceanic area is full of subsea volcanoes, it has been speculated, debated and discussed that the eruptions from these volcanoes could have initiated and substantiated the premise of dragons sucking in ships and its crew to the ocean’s depths,” writes Marine Insight . “The fire-breathing monsters of legend may well have been volcanic eruptions.”
Nine Dragons by Chen Rong, 13th century. ( Public domain )
Historical Events in the Devil’s Sea
During the 13th century, the Mongols, led by Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, attempted two major invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281 AD. However, on both occasions, the Mongol fleet had to cross the Devil’s Sea but were obliterated in extreme weather, forcing the attackers to abandon their plans and fortuitously saving Japan from foreign conquest. The Japanese believed the typhoons had been sent from the gods to protect them from their enemies.
Today, divers are still recovering ruins from the Mongol fleets that were destroyed in their journey across the Devil’s Sea. But the remains of the tens of thousands of soldiers that perished have long gone.
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Other historical reports include a sighting in the 1800s of a mysterious lady sailing in a ship in the Dragon’s triangle. It’s identity and destination were unknown and no one ever discovered who she was and what she was doing alone in the Devil’s Sea.
In the 1940s and 50s, numerous fishing boats were lost in the Devil’s Sea, somewhere between Miyake Island and Iwo Jima, a distance of 1200 km (750 miles), and in 1952, the Japanese government sent a research vessel called Kaio Maru No. 5 to investigate. But it too met its end in the Dragon’s Triangle. Its wreck was later recovered but the 31 crew members were not. The government subsequently deemed the Devil’s Sea unsafe for marine voyaging and transportation.
Sulphur Island (Iwo Jima) in the rough sea and boat sailing. Robert Havell's engraving of Captain Hall’s ship, the Lyra, passing in front of Okinawa's active volcano island of Iwo-Tori Jima. (Okinawa Soba (Rob)/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
The Devil’s Sea Explained?
Legends and mysterious accounts connected with the Devil’s Sea shot to fame in the late 1980s after Charles Berlitz published a book titled ‘The Dragon’s Triangle’. According to Berlitz, the Devil's Sea is every bit as dangerous and mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle, with over 700 people losing their lives there between 1952 and 1954.
However, in 1995, Larry Kusche published a book titled ‘The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved’, which heavily criticized Berlitz’s research. According to Kusche, some of the fishing vessels went missing outside the Dragon’s triangle, and the others were really no mystery – deep sea fishing is a dangerous business and sometimes fishing boats sank.
He also reported that the events surrounding Kaio Maru No. 5 can be easily explained. The boat was destroyed by activity caused by an undersea volcano. The region in and around the Devil’s Sea is a volcanically active area and small islands in the area also disappear and new islands appear as a result of the seismic activity.
Map of the Izu Islands, centre of the Devil's Sea legend ( Public domain )
According to Kusche, and other investigators, the volcanoes and seismic events can account for many of the strange occurrences in the Devil’s Sea, including extreme weather, missing boats, sightings of ‘ghost islands’ and electromagnetic disturbances.
Nevertheless, some remain convinced that there is more going on inside the Dragon’s Triangle and local superstitions prevent many from entering its territory. It’s reputation as a dangerous and mysterious place has existed for thousands of years and still lives on today.
Top image: The Devil’s Sea is also known as the Dragon’s Triangle. ( Public domain )
Updated on May 27, 2021.
Mystery of the Devil’s Sea (2015). Mysterious Facts. Available at: http://mysteriousfacts.com/mystery-of-the-devils-sea/
Unexplained Mystery: The Devil’s Sea (The Dragon’s Triangle) (2017). Marine Insight. Available at: http://www.marineinsight.com/maritime-history/unexplained-mystery-the-devils-sea-the-dragons-triangle/
‘Mysterious waters: from the Bermuda Triangle to the Devil's Sea’ by George Webster (2011). CNN. Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/05/31/sea.legends.bermuda.triangle/index.html
‘Dark Waters: The Most Mysterious Places on the Seas’ by Remy Melina (2011). Live Science. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/33328-haunted-nautical-locations.html
‘The Bermuda Triangle and the Devil's Sea’ by Brian Dunning (2012). Skeptoid. Available at: https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4337