The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle, is an area in the North Atlantic Ocean bounded by Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. Its history is filled with story after story of ships disappearing, airplanes going missing, the stuff of legend. One ship, often referred to as a ghost ship, that disappeared in the Triangle is the SS Cotopaxi. After 95 years, the ship has finally been discovered.
On November 29, 1925, the SS Cotopaxi left Charleston, South Carolina for Havana, Cuba. Led by Captain W.J. Meyer with a crew of 32 and a cargo of coal, they radioed in a distress call on December 1 of that same year. The call reported that they were in the middle of a tropical storm listing and taking on water. The SS Cotopaxi was not heard from again and officially reported as overdue on December 31, 1925.
It wasn’t until many years later that the Cotopaxi became the stuff of legend. People began to claim they saw the ship suddenly appear, empty and still intact, floating harmlessly off the coast of Cuba. In fact, if you recall in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the ship even reappears there. Well, the ship has finally made a real appearance, thanks to explorers searching the waters off the coast of St. Augustine.
We can now thank Michael Barnette and his crew for the discovery of the freighter SS Cotopaxi. The whole adventure began when Barnette and crew discovered the December 1925 distress call the ship made. The group took this call and was able to map out the signal’s coordinates.
These coordinates took the Barnette and his crew out to an area called Bear Wreck, off the St. Augustine coast. This site was discovered 35 years ago and included a ship that had never been identified. “It was incredibly exciting. I’ve done a countless number of shipwreck dives but this one truly stood out. There were several elements that confirmed the identity such as the dimensions of the ship, its length and the measurement of the boiler. Also, I looked at the general orientation of the machinery. It was all consistent with the information we knew about the Cotopaxi,” Barnette explained to the Huff Post via email.
What could have sunk this, and many other, ships in the region known as the Bermuda Triangle? The U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t believe in the supernatural of the region. NOAA’s National Ocean Service believes “environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances,” and has stated as much. “The ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans, and when foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place. This is true all over the world. 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.”
Many scientists believe the formation of “rogue waves” is the main cause of ships disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle region. University of Southampton oceanographer Simon Boxall said per the Sun, “There are storms to the south and north, which come together. And if there are additional ones from Florida, it can be a potentially deadly formation of rogue waves.” These rogue waves can be as big as 100 feet and reach speeds of 500 miles per hour, easily having the ability to take out smaller ships.
For now, though, the disappearance of the SS Cotopaxi is no longer a mystery.