Space & Innovation

Bermuda Triangle Solved? Probably Not

The Internet is all worked up about a possible explanation for mythical deathtrap for ships, but don't suspend your disbelief. Continue reading →

If you've been surfing the Web lately, you may have noticed a mysterious surge of articles reporting that scientists may have discovered the secret behind the Bermuda Triangle. That's the region in the Atlantic Ocean that's fascinated paranormal enthusiasts for years, because it supposedly is the site of an unusual number of disappearances of ships, aircraft and, of course, people.

British newspapers recently reported that scientists had discovered a bunch of pretty big craters on the bottom of the Barents Sea in the Arctic. Researchers from Arctic University of Norway described the craters as being up to 3,280 feet in diameter and 131 feet in depth. Some of the features of the craters, captured with 3-D seismic imaging, suggest they may have resulted from blowouts caused by high-pressure methane gas that migrated up from deep oil deposits and accumulated in shallow rocks from the Triassic period between 206 to 248 million years ago.

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That all might sound pretty dry. But in the hands of the tabloids, it became a startling paranormal scoop. The Daily Mail, for example, reported that the discovery "could also possibly explain the loss of ships and aircraft in the controversial area referred to as the Bermuda Triangle."

To bolster this contention, the paper dug up an old quote from a 2014 Siberian Times article about similar craters. That paper interviewed a Russian scientist, Vladimir Potapov, who mentioned the "theory" that such gas blowouts might have heated up the ocean, causing ships to sink in waters infused with methane, and possibly also created atmospheric turbulence that led to aircraft crashes.

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That might seem to add a plausibility to the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, which got its name from a 1964 article in Argosy magazine and grew with the publication of a 1974 bestseller and a subsequent movie. But it doesn't. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes: "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."

Beyond that, the Arctic University of Norway - the supposed source of the revelation –itself quickly jumped in to debunk the tabloids' spin on its science, in a news release rather emphatically titled Craters in Barents Sea Not Connected to Bermuda Triangle.

Just to make that point more clear, professor Karin Andreassen, one of the researchers, explained: "What I can say is that we are not making any links to the Bermuda Triangle."

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A second massive crater has appeared in a remote part of Siberia on the Yamal Peninsula, called "the end of the world." The new crater was discovered by reindeer herders about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the first, reports the Moscow Times. Following this discovery, a third hole was found to the east of the other two. It's just 15 meters deep but 60-100 meters deep, locals report.

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It's uncertain yet what's caused the sinkholes, but experts said global warming may play a part. Above is a view of the wall inside the first crater.

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One theory: when permafrost melts, gas is released, causing an underground explosion.

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Experts from the Center for the Study of the Arctic and the Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences have studied the hole, returning with the first photos from the site.

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"We can definitely say that it is not a meteorite," a spokesman from Russia's Emergencies Ministry told the Siberian Times.

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The area contains some of Russia's most plentiful stores of natural gas. About 10,000 years ago, the area was under the sea, which left salt deposits.

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The first hole is about 50 meters wide (164 feet, or about 15 stories) and 70 meters deep (229 feet, about 21 stories), reports the Moscow Times. The second appears similar, but is much smaller. Scientists are concerned that global warming could cause more permafrost melt, which could release methane, a greenhouse gas -- and possibly more enormous Siberian sinkholes.

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