programmes  —  Drain The Bermuda Triangle

Drain The Bermuda Triangle – You won’t find it on any official map and you won’t know when you cross into it, but to some people, the Bermuda Triangle is very real. Its mysterious history has made it one of the most iconic places on earth. But what do we really know about this 450,000 square mile area of ocean, and why does it have such an ominous reputation? Are there strange, supernatural forces at work here, or can Science explain the reasons behind its disappeared ships and aircraft? Looking for answers, we explore the Triangle more thoroughly than ever before.

We join expeditions to dive long-lost vessels, and follow the scientists who are probing the darkest and deepest corners of this underwater world. We make use of the latest technology and sonar data to ‘drain’ the Bermuda Triangle, and reveal its previously hidden underwater landscape. Our computer generated, three-dimensional maps of the Triangle offer the first glimpse of this area ever seen. The shocking truth that we uncover, is that there are indeed secrets hidden in the triangle, but they don’t consist of strange powers, but the even more deadly forces of Mother Nature.

The "Bermuda Triangle" is an imaginary area located off the south-eastern Atlantic coast of the USA. It is noted for a supposedly high incidence of unexplained disappearances of ships and aircraft. The apexes of the triangle are generally believed to be Bermuda; Miami, Florida; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Neither the US Navy nor the US Coastguard believe the Bermuda Triangle exist and the US Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name.

Located at 32.4N and 64.8W, Bermuda lies in the northwest of the Sargasso Sea. It is situated 650 miles (1060km) east south east from Cape Hatteras and 825 miles (1330km) north east from the Bahamas. Discovered in1505 by Spanish mariner Juan de Bermudez, after whom it is named the tiny island nation is made up of 181 small islands ringed by reefs many of which have claimed hundreds of vessels.

The Mary Celestia was one of hundreds of steamers built during the American Civil War to run the blockade enforced by Union naval forces. Faster than any US Navy vessel, they brought in a variety of goods including luxury items, basic foodstuffs and war material. They returned to Bermuda with cargoes of cotton which were then transferred to larger slower vessels for onwards shipment to the cotton mills of Great Britain. The Mary Celestia was just two years old when she ran into a breaker near Gibbs Point Lighthouse and sank only a few hundred yards from the shore. One life was lost, the ship’s cook, trapped in the sinking vessel.

The official name for the ‘breakers’ or ‘boilers’ of Bermuda are ‘Algal Vermetid Cup Reefs’. Shaped like giant goblets their main constructive elements are a combination of a rocky coralline type of algae and the partially embedded shells of millions of small worm-like gastropod molluscs. Rising up to 35 feet (12metres) from the seabed, the hardened limestone columns are well adapted to the Atlantic swell constantly pounding Bermuda. These algal-vermetid cup reefs are rarely found anywhere else in the world.

Flight 19’s crews were on a routine navigation training flight over the Atlantic Ocean. A Navy seaplane, the Martin PBM-5 “Mariner”, dispatched to look for survivors also vanished. The five day search that ensued, one of the largest in peacetime history, failed to find a trace of the planes or any of the 27 missing men.

The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior was designed as a strategic bomber for the United States Navy. Entering service in the mid 1950’s it was the longest serving carrier-based aircraft in history. It was the heaviest and largest aircraft to operate from aircraft carriers, earning its nickname, “The Whale”. It usually had a crew of three—pilot, bomber/navigator, and rear gunner. Later in its’ service life its’ role changed to one that specialized in electronic warfare, photo reconnaissance and high capacity aerial refueling. It served extensively in Vietnam however it was last used in the Desert Storm campaign of 1991.

The name “Bahamas” comes from the Spanish “baja mar” meaning shallow sea, and is an archipelago of over 700 islands stretching over 160,000 square miles (nearly 260,000 square km) in the western Atlantic Ocean. These islands, a mere 100-200ft (30-60 metres) above sea level are the exposed parts of a limestone platform that rises up, in places, 20,000ft (6,100 meters) from the ocean floor.

Dean’s Blue Hole is the deepest known blue hole in the world and is nearly as twice as deep as any other known underwater cave in the Bahamas. The room below the entrance shaft is 240 feet (73 meters) wide, 350 feet (107 metres) long and 663 feet and (202 metres) high, making it the largest known underwater cave room and one of the largest cave rooms (wet or dry) in the world.

The extreme depth of Dean’s Blue Hole is unusual in that it is deeper than the fall of the sea level in the last Ice Age. It is speculated that in this unique case the blue hole, or underground cavern, developed as an upper extension of a pre-existing cavern. As Dean’s Blue Hole developed it may have broken through the roof of an older and very large cavern. The submerged portion is enormous, one of the largest underground chambers known anywhere.

On September 7th, 1992, Jim King reached the bottom of Dean’s Blue Hole at a depth of 663 feet (202 metres). King used open circuit scuba equipment and mixed gases (trimix, air, nitrox and oxygen) His descent took about 10 minutes. He spent a few minutes on the bottom and then had to undergo an ascent which took five and half hours.

USS Cyclops was the US Navy's second ship of that name. A 19,360-ton collier, specially designed to keep a mobile battle fleet supplied with fuel. She was built in 1910 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to World War I, she supported U.S. warships in European waters, off the Atlantic seaboard and in the Caribbean as a unit of the Naval Auxiliary Force. Cyclops entered commissioned service in 1917, and continued carrying coal and other cargo to facilitate the U.S. Navy's wartime operations. In early March 1918, while returning from a voyage to Brazil, USS Cyclops disappeared with all hands. Her wreck has never been found, and the cause of her loss remains unknown.

Methane hydrates are white, ice-like solids that consist of methane and water. The methane molecules are enclosed in microscopic cages composed of water molecules. Methane gas is primarily formed by microorganisms that live in the deep sediment layers and slowly convert organic substances to methane. These organic materials are the remains of plankton that lived in the ocean long ago, sank to the ocean floor, and were finally incorporated into the sediments.

Methane hydrates are only stable under pressures in excess of 550psi (35 bar) and at low temperatures. The sea floor is thus an ideal location for their formation: the bottom waters of the oceans and the deep seabed are almost uniformly cold, with temperatures from 0 to 4 degrees Celsius. In addition, below a water depth of about 1150 feet (350 metres), the pressure is sufficiently high to keep the hydrates in a solid form.

The Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, and the second deepest part of the Earth's oceans, with a maximum depth of more than 5 miles (8kms), at Milwaukee Deep. The trench marks the location where the North American Plate is being subducted beneath the Caribbean Plate (the deepest is the Marianas Trench in the Pacific at nearly 7 miles (11 kms) deep))

Submarine landslides are known sources of tsunamis; the sudden vertical dislocation of a large volume of the sea floor during one of these slides can displace the overlying water mass, generating a "tidal" wave. One such slide in Papua New Guinea, the result of an earthquake in 1998, caused a massive tsunami with more than 2,100 casualties. The discoveries made by Uri ten Brink’s team make clear the potential tsunami hazard to the densely populated northern coast of Puerto Rico if another massive slope failure were to occur during an earthquake.

Narrator
RUSSELL BOULTER

Written and Directed by
JOBIM SAMPSON

Producer and Director of Photography
WAYNE ABBOTT

Producer
CRISPIN SADLER

Camera
ANDREW SHEPPARD
ERIC HUYTON
SCOTT TIBBLES

Underwater Camera
DAN STEVENSON

Assistant Camera
KEON ABBOTT

Sound
BARTOZ SOBOLEWSKI

Editors
GIORGIO SATURNINO
MICHAEL ESTEVES
RYAN FERGUSON

On-Line Editor/Colourist
JOHN SACKEY

Dubbing Editor
DAVID JAPP

Dubbing Mixer
JONATHAN JENKINS

Research
LAURA ABBOTT
RORY FONG

Production Co-ordinators
KATE HEMING
FRASER MILLS

Production Management
JOCELYNE ABBOTT
ADAIRE OSBALDESTON

Original Music
PETER MUNDINGER

Graphics and Visual Effects
422 SOUTH:
DAVID CORFIELD
CHRIS SUDDABY

Writer
CHRIS BLOW

With contributions by

PHILIPPE ROUJA
Custodian of Wrecks, Bermuda

NICK HUTCHINGS
Ocean Projects Ltd

MANDY SHAILER
Mapping Analyst, Government of Bermuda

STRUAN SMITH
Natural History Museum, Bermuda

MIKE BARNETTE
Association Of Underwater Explorers

ROY L STAFFORD
Black Shadow Aviation

TOM ILIFFE
Texas A & M University

MARVIN W BARRASH
Author USS Cyclops

SIMON BOXALL
National Oceanography Centre, UK

ERIC BERKENPAS
Remote Imaging, National Geographic Society

URI TEN BRINK
US Geological Survey

Special Thanks

GOVERNMENT OF BERMUDA
BERMUDA TOURISM AUTHORITY
LOOKBERMUDA PRODUCTION SERVICES
MARVIN W. BARRASH
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY
NATIONAL GEOPHYSICAL DATA CENTER
US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
BRIAN KAKUK
NEAL WATSON II
KEVIN JAMES
NEIL SEALEY
JOE CITELLI
SEA DOGS DIVE CENTER
DAVID MARCO
A3 SKYWARRIOR ASSOCIATION
NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
PLYMOUTH UNIVERSITY
EDINBURGH DESIGNS LTD
MAXSEA
UK HYDROGRAPHIC OFFICE

Stock Footage

CRITICAL PAST
INDEPENDENCE SEAPORT MUSEUM
JAMSTEC
JOURNEYMAN PICTURES
LES MORAN
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF BERMUDA
NATIONAL NAVAL AVIATION MUSEUM
NATIONAL OCEANOGRAPHIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
NAVAL AIR STATION FORT LAUDERDALE MUSEUM
NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
OCEAN EXPLORATION TRUST
SAN FRANCISCO MARITIME NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
US NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION
VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY
VIRAL VIDEO UK

For National Geographic Channels
Executive Producers
KATHLEEN CROMLEY
IAIN RIDDICK

For Discovery Canada

Production Executive
KEN MacDONALD

Produced With the Assistance Of
The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit
A United Kingdom-Canada Treaty Co-Production

Produced by MALLINSON SADLER PRODUCTIONS Ltd
and
NORTHERN SKY ENTERTAINMENT Ltd
for
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNELS and DISCOVERY CANADA

  © 2014 MALLINSON SADLER PRODUCTIONS Ltd
and
NORTHERN SKY ENTERTAINMENT Ltd

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