‘Burps of Death’ in the Bermuda Triangle?

SCIENCE

Researchers say methane bubbling to the surface of the ocean could explain the sudden loss of ships in the western North Atlantic. (Guardian)

Use today’s MapMaker Interactive map to find the Bermuda Triangle. If you dare.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

The Bermuda Triangle doesn't officially exist. Agencies such as the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Board of Geographic Names do not recognize the region as anything other than an arbitrary area of the western North Atlantic Ocean.

The Bermuda Triangle doesn’t officially exist. Agencies such as the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Board of Geographic Names do not recognize the region as anything other than an arbitrary area of the western North Atlantic Ocean.

Discussion Ideas

 

  • If the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle is hype, why do people think planes and ships are more likely to disappear in the area? Take a look at the third bookmark in today’s MapMaker Interactive map for some help. (Don’t be afraid to adjust the transparency levels!)
    • The Bermuda Triangle is one of the most hurricane-prone areas of the Atlantic Ocean. Ships and planes are much more likely to encounter strong tropical storms in this region than many others.
    • The Gulf Stream, one of the world’s most recognizable ocean currents in the world, flows right through the Bermuda Triangle. Debris from sunken ships or planes may not drift to the bottom of the ocean, but instead be transported north by this extremely powerful current.
    • The myth of the Bermuda Triangle is a great story perpetuated by unsupported evidence. Many accounts of missing vessels fail to report the weather conditions at the time of the ships’ disappearance, for example. Other accounts report ships or planes as “missing”—but fail to report their return.

 

Methane clathrate is a chemical compound in which a large amount of methane is trapped in a crystal structure of water, forming a solid similar to ice. This beautiful sample of methane clathrate was unearthed off the coast of Oregon. Photograph by Wusel007, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Methane clathrate is an unconventional form of natural gas made of an ice-like lattice of frozen water, which forms a “cage” around molecules of methane. This beautiful sample of methane clathrate was unearthed off the coast of Oregon.
Photograph by Wusel007, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Most methane deposits show up around continental shelves. Map by USGS

Most methane deposits show up around continental shelves.
Map by USGS

  • What are methane (gas) hydrate deposits?
    • According to this Nat Geo TV show, methane deposits are “strange, milky, waxy materials” that coat the seafloor around continental shelves. The Associated Press gives a fuller explanation: “An odorless gas found in swamps and mines, methane becomes solid under the enormous pressures found on deep sea floors. The ice-like methane deposits can break off and become gaseous as they rise, creating bubbles at the surface.”

 

  • How might methane bubbles disrupt the travel of ships and planes, and even contribute to disappearances?
    • Methane bubbles can decrease the buoyancy of ships, and may contribute to sinking.
    • Methane gas is also very flammable; operators of offshore oil platforms are well-aware of the dangers of methane blowouts, nicknamed “burps of death.” Some scientists speculate that methane gas released into the atmosphere may even interact with airplane engines and cause sudden mid-air explosions.
    • Make no mistake: Methane blowouts might not contribute to disappearances at all. All evidence of ship destabilization due to methane bubbles is based on laboratory tests, and the real-world tests conducted by Nat Geo were inconclusive at best. (Cue up this Bermuda Triangle video to about 33:50 for the methane bubble experiment.)

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Guardian: Do giant gas bubbles explain the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle?

Associated Press via NBC News: Could methane bubbles sink ships?

Nat Geo: Where is the Bermuda Triangle? MapMaker Interactive map

Nat Geo: Drain the Bermuda Triangle video

3 responses to “‘Burps of Death’ in the Bermuda Triangle?

  1. Pingback: What Did You Read in 2017? | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Pingback: Scientists Go Deep, Deeper, Deepest | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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