Bermuda Triangle Bermuda Triangle, region of the western Atlantic Ocean that has become associated in the popular imagination with mysterious maritime disasters. Also known as the Devil’s Triangle, the triangle-shaped area covers about 1,140,000 sq km (about 440,000 sq mi) between the island of Bermuda, the coast of southern Florida, and Puerto Rico. The sinister reputation of the Bermuda Triangle may be traceable to reports made in the late 15th century by navigator Christopher Columbus concerning the Sargasso Sea, in which floating masses of gulfweed were regarded as uncanny and perilous by early sailors; others date the notoriety of the area to the mid-19th century, when a number of reports were made of unexplained disappearances and mysteriously abandoned ships. The earliest recorded disappearance of a United States vessel in the area occurred in March 1918, when the USS Cyclops vanished. The incident that consolidated the reputation of the Bermuda Triangle was the disappearance in December 1945 of Flight 19, a training squadron of five U.S. Navy torpedo bombers. The squadron left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with 14 crewmen and disappeared after radioing a series of distress messages; a seaplane sent in search of the squadron also disappeared. Aircraft that have disappeared in the area since this incident include a DC-3 carrying 27 passengers in 1948 and a C-124 Globemaster with 53 passengers in 1951. Among the ships that have disappeared was the tanker ship Marine Sulphur Queen, which vanished with 39 men aboard in 1963. Books, articles, and television broadcasts investigating the Bermuda Triangle emphasize that, in the case of most of the disappearances, the weather was favorable, the disappearances occurred in daylight after a sudden break in radio contact, and the vessels vanished without a trace. However, skeptics point out that many supposed mysteries result from careless or biased consideration of data. For example, some losses attributed to the Bermuda Triangle actually occurred outside the area of the triangle in inclement weather conditions or in darkness, and some can be traced to known mechanical problems or inadequate equipment. In the case of Flight 19, for example, the squadron commander was relatively inexperienced, a compass was faulty, the squadron failed to follow instructions, and the aircraft were operating under conditions of deteriorating weather and visibility and with a low fuel supply. Other proposed explanations for disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle include the action of physical forces unknown to science, a “hole in the sky,” an unusual chemical component in the region’s seawater, and abduction by extraterrestrial beings. Scientific evaluations of the Bermuda Triangle have concluded that the number of disappearances in the region is not abnormal and that most of the disappearances have logical explanations. Paranormal associations with the Bermuda Triangle persist in the public mind, however. (Bermuda Triangle is also called Devil’s Triangle) Bermuda I INTRODUCTION Bermuda or Bermuda Islands, island group, self-governing dependency of the United Kingdom, in the North Atlantic Ocean, east of South Carolina. The group consists of approximately 150 small islands, islets, and rocks, of which about 20 are inhabited. Only six islands are of importance: Bermuda, also called Great Bermuda and Main Island, which is the largest (23 km/14 mi in length); Somerset; Ireland; Saint George’s; Saint Davids; and Boaz. Hamilton is the capital, chief port, and largest city (2001 population estimate, 1,000) in Bermuda. The total area of the Bermuda Islands is 53 sq km (20 sq mi). Geologically the islands have a base of volcanic rock and are capped by coral formations. They are enclosed on the north, west, and south by reefs, which are mostly underwater. The islands are separated from one another by narrow channels, but include several coral lagoons, or sounds, of which the most important are Harrington Sound and Castle Harbour. The islands are low-lying but hilly, being 80 m (260 ft) above sea level. Lacking surface water and freshwater wells, the islands must depend on rainwater, which is collected from rooftops and stored in tanks, for water supply. The average rainfall is 1,500 mm (58 in) a year. The climate is mild, the temperature averaging 17°C (63°F) in winter and 26°C (79°F) in summer. The ocean winds are tempered by the warm Gulf Stream, but when south winds prevail, the humidity rises and severe thunderstorms are frequent. Vegetation is luxuriant and includes Bermuda cedar, bamboo, palm, papaw, and numerous flowering plants. Hedges of oleander and thickets of mangrove are characteristic features of the islands. Hamilton, on Bermuda Island, is the capital and the chief town and port. Next in importance is Saint George, on St. George’s Island. The estimated population of the Bermuda Islands in 2007 was 66,163. Some 60 percent of the population is black. Anglicanism is the principal religion. Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16; about 5,000 students attended Bermuda’s primary schools in 2000. Bermuda College (1974) provides postsecondary education. II ECONOMY The picturesque scenery and the warm, sunny climate make the Bermuda Islands a popular resort. Tourism is an important part of the islands’ economy, and more than 269,581 tourists visited in 2005. In the 1990s, however, international business, including banking and insurance, began to dominate Bermuda’s economy, largely because of lenient tax policies. Manufactured goods include pharmaceuticals, perfumes, flavoring extracts, mineral-water extracts, and essential oils. Only a very small area is under cultivation; bananas, vegetables, and cut flowers are produced. Bermuda’s main imports include food supplies, manufactured goods, and fuels. The Bermuda dollar is the unit of currency (1 Bermuda dollar equals U.S.$1; fixed rate). Roads total 240 km (150 mi). Bermuda is serviced by several international airlines and shipping companies, and enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. III GOVERNMENT Administration in Bermuda is based on a constitution adopted in 1968. A governor, appointed by the British crown, is responsible for external affairs, internal security, defense, and the police and is advised by an executive council on other matters. The executive council consists of the premier, who is the head of the leading party in the House of Assembly, and at least six other members of the legislature. The legislature comprises the elected House of Assembly and an appointed Senate. The 40 members of the House are popularly elected to terms of up to five years. The leading political organizations are the conservative United Bermuda Party (UBP) and the center-left Progressive Labour Party (PLP). IV HISTORY The discovery of Bermuda is attributed to a Spanish navigator, Juan de Bermúdez, who was shipwrecked here in about 1503. No settlement was established, however, until 1609, when a party of English colonists under the mariner Sir George Somers sailing for Virginia, was also shipwrecked here. In 1612 the island group, known as Somers Islands, was included in the third charter of the Virginia Company, and a second group of English colonists arrived. This charter was revoked in 1684, however, and the islands then became a crown colony. Shortly afterward the settlers imported black slaves and, later, Portuguese laborers from the Madeira Islands and the Azores (Portuguese Açores). During the American Civil War (1861-1865), Confederate blockade runners were based in the Bermudas. At the close of the Civil War some Americans, particularly Virginians, migrated here from the United States; the islands later received Boer prisoners, sent by the British government during the Boer War (1899-1902). Because of their strategic location, the Bermuda Islands formerly served as the winter naval station for both the British North Atlantic and West Indian squadrons. From 1941 to 1995, sites on the islands were leased to the United States for naval and air bases. Bermuda became a self-governing dependency in 1968. In 1995 voters in Bermuda soundly rejected a referendum that would have made the island colony independent of the United Kingdom. In the late 1990s international business grew into Bermuda’s most important economic activity. The United Bermuda Party (UBP) controlled the government from 1968 when Bermuda became self-governing until it lost the 1998 legislative elections. The Progressive Labour Party (PLP) then took control of the government, and its party leader, Jennifer Smith, became premier. Smith resigned from that position after the PLP barely held onto its majority in the 2003 elections. The PLP chose Alex Scott, a former public relations manager, to replace Smith, and he became premier later that same year.