My Experiences in the
by Curt Rowlett
First publishing, September 2006. © All rights reserved. Permission to copy and distribute the contents of this website is hereby granted (provided that you don't try to claim any of the writing here as your own. And a link back would be nice).
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.
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).
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, 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 and then disappeared completely after about ten minutes. (I estimate that they passed over us at an altitude of about 500 to 1000 feet; both rockets were white-colored and perhaps 50 to 100 feet in length).
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 similar rocket firing tests that I witnessed while 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 Fortean subject matter will of course remember that there is a known history of so-called "ghost rocket" sightings in other parts of the world. (Source: Project 1947: The Ghost Rockets and Ghost Rockets, the documentary film).
Postscript: 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 fellow 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. 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.