Oh, Gas– a Deadly Triangle

Inanity never seems to die. As I move my Bermuda Triangle material to The Quester Files, I am in the throes of deciding what to keep up and what is dated and needs to be rewritten or canned. Obviously,  I am going to have to keep this page in the theories section. The recent news glut on methane hydrates off Norway is old cabbage. I heard of it decades ago. I heard of such craters off Scotland somewhere where there’s supposed to be one where there is a sunken ship in the center of one of these craters indicating that when the methane erupted it took down the vessel.

The theory of methane hydrates causing ships to vanish in the Bermuda Triangle must rate as one of the most impromptu ideas conceived. Although Dr. Ben Clennell, of Leeds University, England,  is not the first to make note of the possibility of methane hydrates as a source for causing ships to disappear, he has become identified with the theory which, on September 21, 1998, at the Festival of Earth Sciences at Cardiff, Wales, he proposed methane hydrates as the future of  energy.

As a part of his elaborate dissertation he claimed that methane locked below the sea sediments in the Bermuda Triangle can explain the mysterious disappearances. He told how subterranean landslides can unlock the vast beds of methane hydrate. This would be disastrous, he told the audience, because large amounts of methane would reduce the density of the water. “This would make any ship floating above sink like a rock.” He went on to explain how the highly combustible gas could also ignite aircraft engines and blow them to pieces.

This theory was promoted in a semi-serious way by the press at first, but it later came to be dubbed the “Ocean Flatulence Theory,” and in some quarters earned its vociferous proponent the unenviable and humorous nickname of “Dr. Flatus.”


The theory is lacking for several reasons. One, the Bermuda Triangle is not the area of largest concentration of methane hydrates in the world. There are a lot off the Carolinas which, if this is in the Triangle, it depends on your own particular shape for the area. Two, the majority of ships and planes have not disappeared over this section of the “Triangle.” Three, a number of drilling rigs have in fact accidentally bored into beds of methane hydrates and slowly succumbed to the less dense water, sinking to the bottom. However, none of this was so fast that they could not signal their problem, and on a number of occasions news helicopters circling overhead captured every moment on film— but none of the choppers blew to pieces.

There are others in geology who stress that a natural eruption would be so rare it might happen only once every 400 years. They also remind us that the methane has to go through thousands of feet of sediment, thousands of feet of ocean, before it breaks the surface. The chances of a ship being over the precise spot is mathematically astronomical. And it is obvious that no planes are affected by this.

The theory gained circulation probably because it was something new, and because both the public and Dr. Clennell had a complete ignorance where most planes and ships  disappeared in the Triangle. Such a rare occurrence cannot account for the hundreds of losses over the last centuries, nor explain any aircraft disappearances. It also cannot explain those that vanished over the Bahamas, where the water depths are only 50 feet or so deep, not 1,000 feet. During his dissertation, Dr. Clennell admitted that he discovered large beds of methane on the coast line “near the Bermuda Triangle”  which is itself enough rebuttal. Near may matter in horseshoes and hand grenades, but not for ships and planes.

This cold gas is all hot air.

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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress. 


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