Fear over lost ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle began about 60 years ago, after five U.S. Navy planes that took off from Florida vanished without a trace. Historians started looking at the records, and found that 300 ships and many other planes were lost in the area throughout the 20th century. Christopher Columbus had even recorded bizarre compass bearings around the triangle on his 1492 voyage. There have been a number of conspiracy theories about the Bermuda Triangle, but many experts remain unconvinced it even exists. “The region is highly traveled and has been a busy crossroads since the early days of European exploration,” John Reilly, a historian with the U.S. Naval Historical Foundation, previously told National Geographic. “To say quite a few ships and airplanes have gone down there is like saying there are an awful lot of car accidents on the New Jersey Turnpike—surprise, surprise.”
In fact, ships and planes “vanish in the Bermuda Triangle as often as they vanish from anywhere else,” scientists have calculated.
In other words, those vessels lost in the area were more likely downed due to bad weather and chance mishaps than more exotic explanations like gas hydrates, skeptics say. Putting it bluntly, a 1976 NOVA episode on the topic concluded: “Science does not have to answer questions about the Triangle because those questions are not valid in the first place.” Although their risk to shipping and airplanes is currently speculative, gas hydrates are definitely real. An odorless gas found naturally, and caused by decomposition of organic material, methane becomes solid under the pressure of the ocean and can get locked into ice-like crystals called hydrates.The ice-like deposits can break off and even explode violently. Releasing the pressure suddenly can be a danger to oil workers, who call the results “burps of death.”Lab tests have suggested such burps could interfere with ship buoyancy or airplane engines, but the possible effects remain unclear in the real world, where many factors might be at play.