My Experiences in the Bermuda Triangle

My Experiences in the Bermuda Triangle

by Curt Rowlett

Original post

As a former career seaman, I have always been fascinated by the whole Bermuda Triangle mystery. (I spent nearly 15 years at sea, both as a member of the United States Coast Guard and with the United States Merchant Marine. During that time, I traveled through all of the world's oceans, most extensively in the Caribbean and all areas covered by the Bermuda Triangle. I was also an employee at what some people refer to as the "secret naval base" at AUTEC on Andros Island in the Bahamas. I lived and worked there for an 18 month period from mid-1985 to the end of 1986).

I attribute my early interest in the Bermuda Triangle saga to reading books such as Vincent Gaddis' Invisible Horizons and Charles Berlitz' The Bermuda Triangle. In both of those books, the authors recount the stories of numerous ships and planes that disappeared mysteriously in the area, never to be seen or heard from again. Also included were tales of people who had traveled through the area and experienced bizarre incidents, such as mariners and aircraft pilots who reported unusual magnetic anomalies that effected navigational instruments and electrical systems, along with witnesses who saw strange lights in the skies or beneath the waters of the area. Other unusual occurrences included ships that found themselves sailing into weird fog banks; reports of glowing waters spotted from the decks of passing ships or from the windows of aircraft flying through the area; and people who described events that suggested distortions of time and space. In part, it was my reading of those early books that greatly influenced my decision to start a career as a professional seaman as both seemed to appeal to my same general sense of adventure.

Included below are two brief accounts of the strange experiences that I had while transiting the Triangle area. (Versions of both of the stories below originally appeared in a column called Rowlett Reports written by me for early editions of the print version of Strange Magazine).

I joined the United States Coast Guard in 1979 and remained on active duty until 1983. I was stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Sweetgum in Mayport, Florida during that time. As part of the Seventh Coast Guard District, our mission area covered the east coast of the United States as far north as the Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay, Georgia and as far south as Miami, Florida, all well-within the Bermuda Triangle area. Our jurisdiction also included the northern Bahamas and during the time that I was a crewmember of the Sweetgum, we made numerous patrols of that area and engaged in search and rescue operations there.

Strange Radar Return & Malfunctioning Compass

During one voyage in the summer of 1980, our vessel was transiting at night through an area in the Bahamas known as the Tongue of the Ocean, just offshore of Andros Island, where we experienced some very unusual radar and compass anomalies.

What this amounted to was a radar return that suddenly showed what appeared to be a land mass three miles dead ahead of our ship where no "land" actually existed. At the same moment that the "land" appeared on the radar, our ship's compass began swinging wildly for about three minutes until, without explanation, the radar return simply disappeared from the screen as suddenly as it had appeared.

This incident was taken seriously enough that the Captain was woken up by the officer of the watch and the details were recorded in the ship's log. We never did hear any explanation as to what might have caused the false radar return (it was determined that our radar was not malfunctioning), but at the time it happened, I remembered having read about how other sailors had experienced similar phenomena in the same area. (I was on helm watch when this incident occurred and was steering the ship when the compass went haywire. I also saw the radar return and watched as it slowly disappeared from the screen when we were approximately a mile and a half away from the object. I should also point out that our ship's lookout on duty that night never reported a visual sighting on any "land mass" and that the sky was clear with no rain or clouds present).

In 1985, two years after leaving the Coast Guard, I landed a job with the RCA Service Company at the AUTEC base. I lived and worked on Andros Island for 18 months as a crew member on several different torpedo retrieval boats and also on AUTEC vessels that deployed sensitive sonar testing equipment in the Tongue of the Ocean, affectionately rendered as the acronym TOTO. (Andros Island was and is a beautiful and mysterious place to live; I learned that there were many local legends concerning the place, including quite a few stories about strange occurrences experienced both on land and at sea. I would later write one of my first Strange Magazine articles about the Andros Island legend concerning weird bird-like creatures known as "chickcharnies" and an alleged Bahamas sea monster called the Lusca.

Flight of the Ghost Rockets

On one voyage on an AUTEC vessel in the summer of 1985, we were underway in the channel between the north end of Andros Island and Grand Bahama Island, bound for a port in West Palm Beach, Florida.

During the midnight to four o'clock a.m. watch, my watch partner and I sighted what I would later describe in a Strange Magazine column as two "ghost rockets" that flew side by side over our ship on a west to east trajectory. These "rockets" were highly unusual as neither made any sound, were traveling at an oddly slow rate of speed (which to me seemed impossibly slow while it was happening), and left behind contrails that glowed brightly and which were "multi-colored," in that the contrail smoke changed from white to green to blue to pink, with the smoke disappearing completely after about ten minutes. (I estimate that they passed over us at an altitude of about 500 or so feet; both rockets were white-colored and perhaps 50 to 100 feet in length. I should also note that by saying that the rockets made no sound, neither of us heard anything coming from them over the noise of the ship's engines).

I never have been able to determine to a 100% certainty whether or not those rockets were a part of some sort of secret Navy submarine or destroyer test being conducted in the area; I have always assumed that they were not and for good reason: As an AUTEC vessel, we would definitely have been informed that such a test was being undertaken and subsequently, warned to stay out of the area. This had always been the Navy's practice during any kind of tests they conducted while we were working at sea in the same area.

After returning from the voyage, I asked a friend at the AUTEC base who worked as a sort of "air and ocean traffic controller" about the incident. He told me that he had no knowledge of any sort of test-firing of rockets on that night and due to the sensitive nature of his job, he certainly would have been in a position to know. (And as a very close friend of mine, he would have told me even if it was supposed to be "top secret"). Again, I have never heard any satisfactory explanation as to exactly what it was we saw that night. I have also never heard of rockets that travel in such close proximity to each other, i.e., the "side by side" flight that we witnessed, or at such an unusually slow speed. Students of strange subject matter will of course know that there is a history of so-called "ghost rocket" sightings in other parts of the world, primarily in Sweden. (See: Project 1947: The Ghost Rockets, and, Ghost Rockets, the documentary film).

Since the time that I originally wrote my account of the ghost rockets story, I have discovered that the position that our ship was at when we saw the two ghost rockets was in almost exactly the same area where two other strange incidents occurred, one being that of pilot Bruce Gernon's weird experience with what he later called "electronic fog," and the other, the mysterious disappearance in 1945 of “Flight 19” (five World War Two Navy TBM Avenger bombers and crew that were never heard from again). Bruce Gernon later contacted me and asked if he could include my experiences in that area in his book, Beyond the Bermuda Triangle, about electronic fog and other phenomena that has been reported there, to which I agreed.

In 2007, I submitted my "ghost rockets" report to the National UFO Reporting Center. I was later contacted by telephone by the NUFORC's director, Peter Davenport, who was very interested in my report.

In 2009, I was contacted by producers from The History Channel show UFO Hunters. They were interested in the two stories above and asked if I would be willing to return to Andros Island for an on-camera interview, to which I agreed. In addition, I put the producers in touch with Dave Malcolm, a person whom I had been contacted by in 2007. Dave is also an ex-AUTEC employee who, in 1972, witnessed something highly unusual in the waters around Andros Island. My story about the strange radar return was the only one of my two experiences that UFO Hunters used. Our interviews are now a part of UFO Hunters Episode 308, "Underwater Area 51."

In 2010, Dave Malcolm and I again appeared on camera together to discuss our experiences, this time, in the Bruce Burgess television special, Return to the Bermuda Triangle, which ran on The Learning Channel. In that film, my ghost rockets sighting was discussed and recreated (with one slight inaccuracy) using an animation.

In 2019, a Mysterious Universe story was written by Michah Hanks, who included my ghost rockets sighting in his article.

In 2021, I corresponded via email with Clas Svahn, the International Director of UFO Sweden (Clas is the main investigator who appears in the 2015 film, Ghost Rockets mentioned above). Clas asked me to describe my ghost rockets sighting in a bit more detail and I sent him the following: The night was very clear, as you could see the stars above. This sighting occurred sometime in August of 1985. Myself and another guy were standing watch aboard ship. I was steering and he was navigating. We were on the midnight to 4 a.m. shift. I estimate that the time was about 1:00 a.m., possibly a bit later. We first noticed two bright objects in the sky dead ahead of the ship. As the objects passed overhead, we could see that they were long and cylindrical, white colored, and were traveling side by side of each other, at a very slow rate of speed, almost impossibly slow as to still be able to stay aloft. I estimate that each rocket was from 50 to 100 feet long and passed overhead about 500 feet above the ship. There wasn't any kind of fire or afterburner coming out of the back of the rockets. But they were glowing with a kind of diffused light all along the length of each rocket. They were both emitting some kind of contrail that looked at first like white smoke. The smoke lingered after the rockets passed overhead and out of sight. Then the smoke began to change colors, from white to green to blue to pink, hung in the air for about 5-10 minutes, then disappeared. I estimate that from the time that we saw the rockets until they had passed overhead and out of sight was about 10-15 seconds. But the smoke lingered for much longer in the sky.

Curt is a researcher and writer whose work has appeared in the books Popular Paranoia, Labyrinth13, The Curse of Palmyra Island, Riding On Your Fears, and the magazines Fortean Times, Strange Magazine, Paranoia, and Steamshovel Press.

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