I'm not afraid, send me back to The Bermuda Triangle


Three items are usually mentioned about Columbus and the Bermuda Triangle: the strange occurrence in the Sargasso Sea, the way his compasses acted up, and the strange lights he saw in the Indies.

First let's point out that Columbus was an excellent sailor and Captain, and despite several discussions of mutinies, none were attempted. His crew trusted his abilities. The main concern of his crew was the lack of land and the thought of running out of food and water on the journey. They had no idea how long they would be at sea, other than the calculations of the Earth's circumference, according to Columbus.

There were two different circumferences of the Earth believed at this time. These estimates existed from as early as ancient Egypt. The basic way the circumference was figured out was by measuring the distance to the horizon from two different elevations (sea level and another height), and then using basic geometry determining the curvature of the circle.

No one with any education truly believed the earth was flat. Columbus believed the Earth to be about 15,000 miles in circumference; the shore of Asia should be reachable across the Atlantic. Most navigators used 25,000 miles, and believed the trip was impossible simply because it wasn't possible to carry provisions for such a long trip.

Furthermore, most sailors liked to sail close to land in order to pick up provisions and fresh water. The open sea was feared and respected because of stormy weather conditions.

As Columbus went further out to sea, he ran into the Sargasso. The sea was a puzzle to him mainly because of the number of sea birds in the area; while usually a sign of land, no land was in sight. This was a major disappointment to Columbus and his crew and he made a special note of it for future voyages. (More as warning to future travelers not to expect landfall than because of alien visitors.)

Later, as he went farther west into the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus noted compass changes in the shipís log. The compass (magnetic) North was not lining up with True (Celestial) North as it had originally when leaving Portugal. He made a note of it, but didn't tell his superstitious crew. The notes written in the shipís log were rarely if ever shared with the crew. When others noticed the difference, Columbus informed them that he had made note of it, but it was not a major problem. He reasoned that the compass probably pointed to something other than True North.

This, of course, has been proven to be true. Magnetic North is currently near Prince of Wales Island, half way between the Hudson Bay and the Geographic North Pole.

Columbus and crew also spotted a meteor hitting the water. The crew was not puzzled by it, however, as it was not that uncommon to see shooting stars and the like. The meteor was noted in Columbus log mainly because of the size. This occurred outside the boundaries of the Triangle.

Columbus also logged a report of seeing lights in the distance, on October 11. He called for one of his men, who also saw the light. When a third man finally came, the light had vanished.

By this time, the crew, while not mutinous, was calling for the ship to turn around. Columbus wrote that if landfall had not been made within few days, he would turn around. There was a reward for the first man to spot land and several bad sightings were made. His main concern was provisions. The crew would need to have enough food and fresh water for the return trip.

There were visible signs, such as land birds or plants floating in the water, but no land was sighted. On several occasions, low clouds had been mistaken for land. Columbus issued an order that any false sighting would lead to a forfeiture of reward, because of the effect they were having on the crew.

The light Columbus had seen on the night of Oct 11 was probably from Man Island near Hispanola or from Hispanola itself. He failed to wake the crew because he did not want to report yet another false sighting. Four hours later, Rodrigo de Triana, aboard the Pinta, signaled land-in-sight. Land was spotted in the vicinity of where the light had been seen.

I'm not afraid, send me back to The Bermuda Triangle