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Sea Of The Devil

On the other side of the world from the Bermuda Triangle there exists a section of the ocean startlingly similar in its history of vanishing ships and planes. The Japanese have been aware of this dangerous area for a thousand years. They have called it the MaŚno Umi: the Sea of the Devil. For centuries, seamen have attributed the repeated mysterious losses of fishing boats to sea demons, restless dragons who come to the surface of the ocean to seize fishing boats and drag them and their occupants down to the dragons' underwater lairs.

It is no coincidence that the Bermuda Triangle is sometimes called the Devil's Triangle, for when tragic events cannot be logically explained, it is always easy to put the blame on the devil or other unfriendly supernatural entities. In the case of the Bermuda Triangle, sudden and unexplained disappearances of surface craft and aircraft have often been attributed to electromagnetic anomalies, mysterious weather conditions, and even exploratory UFOs which either spacenap craft from Earth or cause them, by use of extraterrestrial power sources, to disintegrate and sink beneath the ocean.

Over the last fifteen years, the Bermuda Triangle has achieved an awesome celebrity - or rather, notoriety - all over the world as a place of mystery. Numerous books, not to mention magazine and newspaper articles, have been devoted to the disappearances of sailing vessels and aircraft in the Bermuda Triangle, as well as to the other strange phenomena associated with this section of the Atlantic.

The Bermuda Triangle and the Maľno Umi - the Dragon Triangle - share many of the more believable but no less dangerous characteristics. The triangles constitute the two areas of the world most known for compass deviations, malfunction and nonfunction of radio communication, huge unexpected waves, seaquakes, minicanes (intense localized hurricanes), great whirlpools, and sudden and localized fogs.

Above all, both areas are known for the disappearance of scores of ships and planes, together with their crews and passengers, leaving no identifiable flotsam to indicate the cause of their vanishing. Far more important than the lost craft, however, is the matter of the death, if they really died, of thousands of people: naval and merchant seamen, air crews, passengers, and fishermen. And in the Dragon Sea, a number of marine scientists must be added to the roll call of the lost. While probing for the cause of so many mysterious disappearances in the Dragon Triangle, these men of science have also disappeared, along with their research vessels.

A curious coincidence does occur in the Japanese term for a type of wave encountered in the seas of the Dragon Triangle. It is called sankaku-nami, "triangle wave," meaning that these waves appear to head toward a ship from three directions, all at the same time.

Like the Bermuda Triangle, the Dragon Triangle in the Western Pacific forms a generally triangular pattern. It follows a line from western Japan north of Tokyo to a point in the Pacific at approximately latitude 145 degrees east. It then turns west-southwest past the Ogasawara Shinto (the Bonin Islands) and then down to Guam and Yap, west to Taiwan and then returns north-northeast back to Japan, near the measuring point of Nojima Zaki on the Bay of Tokyo. The Bermuda Triangle is generally considered to go approximately from the Straits of Florida north-northeast to Bermuda, south to the Lesser Antilles and back to Florida.

These two triangles share strange characteristics when plotted on a globe. They appear on exactly opposite sides of the earth. They are both located on longitude 35 degrees west and east respectively. And, if we take the western edge of the Bermuda Triangle at latitude 50 degrees north and follow it over the top of the world, we find that it descends through the Dragon Triangle. In other words, the two triangles are on opposite sides of the earth's crust for both latitude and longitude. But the similarities do not end here.

The two areas are both located at the eastern end of continental masses, the drop-off to deep water where the sea is swept by strong currents over active volcanic areas. The sea floor varies from relatively shallow areas to the plunging depths of the ocean's deepest trenches. In the Bermuda Triangle the trench north of Puerto Rico extending west into the Caribbean is as deep as any area of the Atlantic.

In the case of the Dragon Triangle, the entire eastern coast of Japan is close to great gulfs in the ocean floor - the Ogasawara Deep, and the Ryukyu, Mariana, and Philippine trenches. In 1960, the U.S. bathyscape Trieste touched bottom at 36,198 feet in the Mariana Trench. If Mount Everest, 29,028 feet high, were to rise from this abyss, it would still be over a mile below the surface of the waves.

There exists a possibility, in both cases, of finding unknown creatures and unsuspected forces in the depths of these oceanic black holes. Another element common to the two triangles concerns the agonic lines (from the Greek, meaning "no angles"). While these lines are invisible, they reflect a measurable peculiarity of the earth's magnetic field. The north and south magnetic poles do not coincide with the geographic north and south poles. Thus, the connecting force lines between the magnetic poles north and south do not line up exactly with the meridians of longitude. The paths to these two sets of poles do not coincide except for the general north-south direction.

The meridians appear on all maps, and are exact and numbered as to degrees; but the agonic lines follow paths that are modified and sometimes wandering. At certain places on the earth, they coincide with the meridians, and only then does the compass needle point true north, instead of the customary isogonic reading, up to an angle of 20 degrees with the meridian. This coincidence may result in occasional misreading of compasses - with adverse results.

The principle agonic line in the Western Hemisphere runs through the Bermuda Triangle, while the main agonic line in the Eastern Hemisphere runs through the Dragon Triangle. In both triangles, magnetism, perhaps intensified, has often affected compasses and caused ships and planes to lose direction. Perhaps, since knowledge about the earth's interior is still largely theoretical, a great electromagnetic field may lie between these two diametrically opposed triangles, working through the huge cosmic dynamo that is our home planet.

In his book The Encyclopedia of the Unknown, Colin Wilson offers a magnetically related solution to the disappearance problem. Although birds have used the magnetic lines to navigate on their migrations since time immemorial, observers have noticed situations in which flocks have inexplicably lost their way, perhaps due to an anomaly in the planet's magnetic field.

The Marine Observer for 1930 cautioned seamen about a magnetic disturbance at the Tambora volcano, near the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia, a disturbance which could deflect a ship's compass by as much as 6 degrees. Captain Stutt of the ship Australia encountered a similar anomaly - one powerful enough to deflect his ship's compass by 12 degrees!

Wilson also connects fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field with the rubbing and pressure of the great tectonic plates which make up our planet's crust. He goes on to say: Scientists are not sure why the earth has a magnetic field, but one theory suggests that it is due to movement in its molten core. Such movements would in fact produce shifting patterns in the earth's field, and bursts of magnetic activity, which might be compared to the burst of solar energy known as sunspots. If they are related to earth-tensions and therefore to earthquakes, then we would expect them to occur in certain definite zones just as earthquakes do. What effects would a sudden "earthquake" of magnetic activity produce? One would be to cause compasses to spin, for it would be rather as if a huge magnetic meteor was roaring up from the center of the earth. On the seas it would produce an effect of violent turbulence, for it would affect the water in the same way the moon affects the tides, but in an irregular pattern, so that the water would appear to be coming "from all directions."

The description of the water effects of such an anomaly sounds very similar to that of the sankaku-nami - the dreaded triangle wave encountered in the Dragon Triangle. Perhaps those who survived to report this frightening phenomenon actually lived through only a weak demonstration of the force of magnetic anomalies. And, given the tectonic origins of such anomalies, it should be noted that the Dragon Sea and environs are among the most tectonically active areas in the world.

The Bermuda Triangle has attracted public attention since December 5, 1945, when the collective disappearance of five Aztec Avenger torpedo bombers took place between the east coast of Florida and the Bahamas, followed by the disappearance of a Martin Mariner search plane. The search for this "Lost Patrol" involved hundreds of planes and surface craft, yet no wreckage or any clues to the fate of men and planes were ever discovered. The radio messages from the "Lost Patrol" implied that they were flying over islands that were not on their charts or "not where they were supposed to be." In the light of subsequent developments in the Bermuda Triangle, it has been suggested that the planes might have somehow crossed back in time, when there were more and different islands off the coast of Florida.

The case is still open in naval archives, and public interest in the fate of the Aztec Avengers still flares up every time the remains of a plane of this type are found on the sea bottom or in the Florida Everglades. On each occasion an unsuccessful attempt has been made to compare the engine numbers of the discovered plane with those of the Lost Patrol's planes. What happened to them and where they went, along with hundreds of other large and small planes and ships since that time, remains a mystery.

The strange and mysterious incidents within the Dragon Triangle have been well known in Japan and other nearby islands for a much longer time than the occurrences in the Bermuda Triangle. Ships have been recorded as disappearing in the Dragon Triangle for more than a thousand years (some researchers say 3,000 years). Ancient records show that this mysterious sea has claimed ships from the days of the Sung and Yuan dynasties of China and the medieval Japanese shogunates until the present day.

Chinese legends dating back to 900 B.C. tell of a dragon's underwater "palace" located beneath a small island five or six days' sail from Suzhou, in Kiangsu province. Even on windless days the seas in the locality were too rough for ships to approach safely. Strange noises could be heard by those venturing close - and strange lights visible for a hundred miles shone over the water by night.

Now, nearly three millennia later, ships over 200,000 tons, carrying oil, coal, and other bulk cargo, have vanished in this area, leaving no crew members, identifiable wreckage, or flotsam to indicate what happened. Perhaps there is something more here at work than ancient sailors' tales.

Naval and scientific interest was first aroused in Japan when it was noted that a number of patrol ships and commercial fishing craft of fairly light tonnage, up to 190 tons, had vanished within a few years of 1945 off the east coast of Japan. The toll of missing personnel, augmented by the presumed drownings of crews from larger ships that regularly disappeared, impelled the Japanese Shipping Administration as early as 1950 to proclaim the Iza and Ogasawara island chains as an official danger area for ships.

Regarding the Bermuda Triangle, the Seventh Coast Guard District, responsible for rescues in the area, has received thousands of letters from small-craft owners, asking whether the Bermuda Triangle is really a dangerous area. The answer from Seventh USCG District comes as a form letter: Mysterious, mystic, supernatural . . . unlikely! This area, commonly bounded by Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico, might have on the surface what would be considered a high disappearance rate, but you also have to consider the amount of air and sea traffic in this area. Thousands of ships, small boats, and commercial and private aircraft transit the waters off Florida's east coast. The majority of disappearances in this area can be attributed to its unique environmental features. . . . There are some possible justifications and so-called mysterious disappearances within the area, but the coast guard is not impressed with explanations from the supernatural. . . .

In other words, while the coast guard steadfastly denies the existence of such an area as the Bermuda Triangle, it provides the coordinates (apparently so that boaters will know when they are in the triangle, in case it really does exist). This official opinion, however, is not shared by coastguardsmen who continue to have unusual and startling experiences within its boundaries.

It is notable, however, that the coast guard's letter mentions another "trouble spot" in the world: An area called the "Devil's Sea" by Japanese and Filipino seamen, located off the east coast of Japan, also exhibits the same magnetic characteristics. Like the "Bermuda Triangle," it is known for its mysterious disappearances.

That these disappearances continue right on the well-trafficked doorsteps of two of the developed world's leaders in electronics, computers, and high technology must be considered mysterious indeed. It is interesting to note that the two principal danger areas are located to the east of continent-sized land masses, in locations where warm and cold ocean currents collide. The warm currents generally head north, while the cold currents head south. These are also nodal points marking the turns of both surface ocean currents and the tidal currents deep below the ocean's surface. Again, these currents usually turn in opposite directions. The strength of these great flowing masses of water may generate a more powerful pull than that of the north magnetic pole, creating magnetic anomalies in space and time.

Certainly, as Ivan Sanderson has pointed out, there are some interesting time effects to be found in these areas: cases of carefully clocked airline flights arriving early, sometimes so far ahead of their ETA (estimated time of arrival) that the only explanation would be 500 mile per hour tail winds! The passengers of such flights should feel congratulated not only for an unexpectedly early arrival, but for safe passage through a space-time anomaly that has sent so many other travelers on a one-way passage to oblivion.

The heavily traveled shipping lanes of the Bermuda Triangle were the happy hunting grounds of many German submarines during World War II, which surely must account for many ship vanishings. The Dragon Triangle, besides submarine activity, saw some of the most serious surface fighting of the war.

Nonmysterious disappearances of Japanese vessels include the sinking of the aircraft carriers Taiho and Shokaku along with 340 planes in the Battle of the Philippine Sea; the loss of the carrier Zuikako with four battleships, three other aircraft carriers, ten heavy cruisers, and nine destroyers in the Japanese escape from Leyte Gulf; and the loss of five ships and 4,000 kamikaze planes at Okinawa. One of the vessels was the huge battleship Yamato, sent into battle with insufficient fuel for a return voyage. Considering such known losses, any disappearances during World War II have not been considered as mysteries in either triangle, given the proliferation of mines, submarines, and air strikes during that time.

An exception should be made, however, for the simultaneous mass disappearance of five Japanese warships at the beginning of 1942 while on maneuvers close to the shores of Japan. The flotilla comprised three destroyers and two small aircraft carriers. What happened to these ships was never ascertained. It is extremely doubtful that they were sunk by enemy action, since they were in home waters and neither the United States nor Great Britain had, during those dark early days of the war, ships or submarines in the area. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle's bombing raid on Tokyo was months away, as was the Battle of Midway, where the Japanese fleet sustained its first heavy losses. In any case, the Allies would assuredly have quickly taken credit for any sinkings if their forces had been involved.

The history of the early naval war in the Pacific yields another interesting footnote. United States submarine forces were greatly hampered in their operations off the shores of Japan because the magnetic detonators on their torpedos worked incorrectly. At times, torpedos would actually turn to attack the ships that had launched them. Although the magnetic detonators represented the best technology of the time, the navy's torpedo arsenal had to be refitted with contact detonators.

Reminiscent of similar incidents in the Bermuda Triangle is another recorded wartime incident in the Dragon Triangle, apparently not connected with combat. This occurred toward the end of the Pacific War. In The Deadly Mystery of Japan's Bermuda Triangle, Rufus Drake quotes Shiro Kawamoto, commander of a Zero fighter wing, who stated that a last radio message had been received from the pilot of a Kawanishi Flying Boat prior to the invasion of Iwo Jima. The plane was on patrol during a night when no United States aircraft had been reported in the area. The last message from the Kawanishi was a curious one. The pilot said, "Something is happening in the sky . . . the sky is opening up Ś." There was no further communication - the plane vanished. We have no way of knowing if something similar happened to military U.S. and Japanese planes that have vanished in this area within recent years, for whatever happened to them happened too quickly for the pilots to send a message.

After the end of World War II and the reopening of Japan's sea lanes, ship disappearances and mysterious sinkings continued to occur in the Dragon Triangle. From 1949 to 1954 ten large fishing vessels and coast guard cutters vanished without a trace and with all witnesses - totaling hundreds of people - lost.

One such ship, the Kai˘ Maru No. 5, vanished in 1952 while on a research expedition to find out why the area was so dangerous. Its disappearance was notable because the sea was calm at the time and the weather was excellent. Although the vessel had 150 tons of oil on board, no oil slick was found on the surface near its last check-in message. Nothing unusual was said over the radio, which functioned up to the time of the disappearance.

The only flotsam found were five undamaged empty oil barrels. Explanations concerning the loss of the Kaio Maru No. 5 include the theories that it had been sunk by a Russian submarine, sideswiped by a large United States naval craft, or had even been blown out of the water by an undersea volcano. A Japanese magazine, quoting accounts of ancient legends still believed in the area, suggested that dragons or giant squid had swallowed the ship at one gulp.

Mysterious losses of ships and planes have continued through the years, and these include cargo ships, tankers, ore ships, and fishing vessels, as well as passenger and military aircraft. March 1957, the so-called nightmare month in the history of aviation, included three air disappearances within a two-week period in the Dragon Triangle. Unexplained losses of ships and planes have continued up to the present.

Charles Berlitz. The Dragon's Triangle . WYNWOOD Press, New York, NY. 1989.

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