Monday, March 29, 2010

USS Insurgent

USS Insurgent, August 1800.

The USS Insurgent vanished in August 1800 with 340 men. (Berlitz, Bermuda Triangle, p. 63.)

Alternatively, "In September 1799 the USS Insurgent, a thirty-six-gun French-built warship with 340 crew, vanished." (Quasar, p. 55.)

From the Navy: 

Frigate USS Insurgent departed Hampton Roads, VA on 8 Aug. 1800 for West Indies. Never heard from again. Ship and crew of 340 presumed lost in severe West Indies storm on 20 Sep. 1800.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

General Gates

General Gates, 1780.

In 1780, the General Gates went missing. No British warship laid claim to sinking her.

But the Navy happens to have some records:

General Gates returned to Boston harbor 13 April 1779, so unseaworthy from battering gales that her crew, at times, had despaired of ever reaching port. She was ordered sold 2 June 1779. In August she was loaned by the Navy Board to the Deputy Commissary of Prisoners at Boston to convey prisoners to New York. On completion of this mission, she was sold.

One wonders how unseaworthy the General Gates was when she sailed for her final, fatal voyage.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Seabird, 1750.

One day in 1850, fishermen saw a large sailing ship cutting through a rough sea, heading for the reefs off Easton's Beach near Newport, Rode Island. The men on the beach shouted and waved in warning. The ship swung around, navigated the narrow channel, and beached itself. 

Although she had apparently been under manned control when she had turned into the channel, and no one had been observed leaving the vessel, when the fishermen boarded her, they found her deserted, except for a dog. Coffee was boiling on the stove, breakfast sitting on the table, and tobacco odor hanging around the cabin. 

She was the Seabird, due back home in Newport from Honduras with a cargo of lumber and coffee. Her captain was one John Durham or Huxham. 

The last entry in her log was about sighting Brenton Reef several miles offshore. The crew of a fishing boat reported that they had exchanged signals with the Seabird at sea, about two hours before the incident. 

It is not clear whether a lifeboat was missing. The crew of the Seabird may have jumped overboard when they thought their ship was going to hit the reef and been drowned, but what strange guidance had then steered her into the channel? If human agency had guided her, how could the crew vanish unobserved after she had attracted everyone's attention through her near miss at the reefs? In any event, no bodies where ever found. 

The Seabird was wedged too deeply into the sand to be floated off. When a storm hit the area, folks expected to find her shattered to pieces in the morning. 

Yet, when the storm had blown over, no trace of her was to be found on the beach. She had once more negotiated the channel on her own and vanished out to sea as mysteriously as she had appeared from there, never to be seen again. (Gaddis, Invisible Horizons, pp. 131.) 

According to Group, the captain's sleeping gown was found lying in a companionway, but the longboat and logbook were missing. Consequently, there cannot have been an entry on sighting Brenton Reef, and thus there is no evidence that there was any human left on board the Seabird (or Sea Bird) at that point. 

There had been a storm in the morning, but fishermen had allegedly communicated with the captain afterwards. No traces of violence were found aboard. (Group, pp. 21.) 

Group cites C. P. Beauchamp Jefferys, who found that a detailed report was not written down before seventy or eighty years after the alleged fact, and then by an uneducated man who had been a child at the time the story is set. As can be expected, the details are very uncertain: The year was not 1850, but rather 1750, or might have been 1749 or 1760. The name of the captain might be Huxham, Maxham, Hayden, Buffin, or Durham. 

Jefferys' solution is a mutiny against a tyrannical captain. Two crewmen, who had been unjustly imprisoned and were to be murdered by the captain and his cronies, escaped from the brig of the brig, killed off the others one after another as they woke up, deep-sixed the bodies, and made off with the longboat. That's what one of the mutineers allegedly told Captain Henry Robinson of the Soldan

But how could the derelict Seabird then swerve to clear the reef and navigate right into the channel, of all places? Were the winds and currents just right? 

If we don't have a mystery about a supernaturally vanishing crew here, then we have a mystery about a ship with a mind of her own, right? But did that part ever happen, or is that just sailor's yarn grafted onto the story during the decades and decades of oral tradition? 

I rate this one a minor mystery. It may be worthwhile to look into it to see if more evidence can be unearthed as to whether the solution is correct and whether the story ever happened at all. It is, however, not such a high quality mystery as, like, the Carroll A. Deering, where we at least have photos and credible witnesses so we can be sure that the ship existed in the first place and that the incident happened at all. 

Much like the Columbus case, this one's a tossup. What little evidence there is can be selectively dismissed to arrive at any number of theories. 

If you accept the laws of identity and causality implied by any everyday observation (things are what they are and behave according to predictable laws of nature), you'll be looking for a naturalistic explanation like the one outlined by what little evidence there is. If you prefer to believe in a mysterious, unknowable, awe-inspiring universe, you'll conclude that zombie ghouls from Mars beamed the crew up to the mothership for dinner. (They don't seem to fancy dog, though.) 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Three Galleons

Three galleons, fall 1750.

In fall of 1750, the annual treasure fleet of five galleons, commanded by Captain Don Juan Manuel de Bonilla, on his flagship Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, sailed from Havana to Spain. Off Cape Hatteras, the fleet encountered a hurricane.

The Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe barely made it through the hurricane, and so did another of the galleons, which was captured by English colonists with 32,000 pieces of eight. The three other galleons vanished in the hurricane. No wreckage or bodies were ever found or washed ashore. (Thomas Jeffrey, Bermuda Triangle, pp. 35.)

Mystic Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey tried hard to mystify this non-mystery by harping on how no wreckage or bodies were found, not even by the bankers, the wreckers living on the Outer Banks, who captured the other galleon.

But the assumption that floating wreckage will be found after any shipwreck is wrong, particularly if it is scattered by a storm, particularly if it is scattered by the Gulf Stream, particularly if there are no aircraft for a bird's-eye view. Her attempt is disingenuous on its face, as she mentioned the maelstrom the Gulf Stream causes off Cape Hatteras earlier in her highly fictionalized account. As for the wreckers, had they any motive to tell if they found something anyway?

This is just another tale Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey added, maybe because she was too lazy to do some real research on the true mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, or maybe to pad her collection of Age of Sail stories she seems to have been fond of.

No mystery here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Anne, 1733.

The Anne, a "stout vessel of 200 tons," from Beaufort Town, Georgia Colony, to England, with returning colonists, "utterly vanished." No survivors. (Thomas Jeffrey, Devil's Triangle, p. 155.)

Obviously, during the Age of Sail, all kinds of things could happen to ships, and without radios, no one would ever hear about it. Doesn't mean the Martians got her. Doesn't mean they didn't get her, either. Tossup. Think or believe what you want.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Longboat, September 1, 1609.

The longboat of the wrecked Sea Venture was sent for help by the colonists stranded in Bermuda. It was never heard from again. Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey calls it the first rescue vessel to vanish in the Bermuda Triangle and the first unsolved vanishing there. (Thomas Jeffrey, Bermuda Triangle, pp. 25.)

The longboat with Mate Henry Ravens and seven volunteers set sail for Virginia on August 28. After two days, they were back and reported they could not find their way out of the reefs. On September 1, they sailed once more, never to be seen again.

Little wonder in my opinion that a longboat didn't make it all the way from Bermuda to Virginia. The Gulf Stream probably carried them all the way to Iceland.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sea Venture

Sea Venture, July 28, 1609.

The Sea Venture, carrying colonists en route to Virginia, was wrecked on a reef off Bermuda, which led to the accidental colonization of Bermuda. (Snow, Mysteries and Adventures Along the Atlantic Coast, pp. 76.) By the wreck, William Shakespeare was inspired to write The Tempest.

The wreck itself was totally un-mysterious:

On June 2, 1609, the Sea Venture set sail from Plymouth as the flagship of a seven-ship fleet (towing two additional pinnaces) destined for Jamestown, Virginia, as part of the Third Supply, carrying 500 to 600 people. On July 24, the fleet ran into a strong storm, likely a hurricane, and the ships were separated. The Sea Venture fought the storm for three days. Comparably-sized ships had survived such weather, but the Sea Venture had a critical flaw in her newness: her timbers had not set. The caulking was forced from between them, and the ship began to leak rapidly. All hands were applied to bailing, but water continued to rise in the hold. The ship's guns were reportedly jettisoned (though two were salvaged from the wreck in 1612) to raise her buoyancy, but this only delayed the inevitable. The Admiral of the Company, Sir George Somers himself, was at the helm through the storm. When he spied land on the morning of July 25, the water in the hold had risen to nine feet, and crew and passengers had been driven past the point of exhaustion. Somers deliberately drove the ship onto the reefs of what proved to be Bermuda in order to prevent its foundering. This allowed all 150 people aboard, and one dog, to be landed safely ashore.

But wait, we're in the realm of cheap horror writers. So before the wreck, Somers saw a mysterious light dancing in the rigging, "like no phenomenon of heaven or earth he'd ever seen before." (Thomas Jeffrey, Bermuda Triangle, p. 24.) William Strachey, secretary-elect of the Virginia colony, mentioned it in his journal, and Shakespeare fashioned the "apparition" into the spirit Ariel.

Dare I say, St. Elmo's fire? Yep, my man Billy agrees, and he was there:

Only upon the Thursday night, Sir George Somers, being upon the watch, had an apparition of a little round light, like a faint star, trembling and streaming along with a sparkling blaze, half the height upon the main mast and shooting sometimes from shroud to shroud, 'tempting to settle, as it were, upon any of the four shrouds. And for three or four hours together, or rather more, half the night it kept with us, running sometimes along the main yard to very end and then returning; at which Sir George Somers called divers about him and showed them the same, who observed it with much wonder and carefulness. But upon a sudden, toward the morning watch they lost the sight of it and knew not what way it made.

The superstitious seamen make many constructions of this sea fire, which nevertheless is usual in storms, the same (it may be) which the Grecians were wont in the Mediterranean to call Castor and Pollux, of which if one only appeared without the other they took it for an evil sign of great tempest. The Italians and such who lie open to the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Sea call it (a sacred body) corpo sancto; the Spaniards call it St. Elmo and have an authentic and miraculous legend for it.

Thanks, Billy. Ragnar 1, Adi-Kent 0.