The Vile Vortices Of Ivan T. Sanderson
In 1972, Ivan T. Sanderson, a Scottish biologist who founded the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained, published an article entitled “The Twelve Devil’s Graveyards Around The World” in an issue of Saga magazine. In this article, he explains how he came to discover twelve “equally spaced areas on the surface of Earth where ‘funny things happen.’”
The most well-known of these areas, as well as the one which initially piqued his interest, is the Bermuda Triangle. According to Sanderson, the mysterious disappearances in this area were mostly overlooked until December 5, 1945, when five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers disappeared after taking off from the Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station on a routine patrol. Sanderson claims the pilots were in radio contact with each other right up until the time of their disappearance, reporting that they had no idea where they were and that the ocean looked wrong. However, other reports of this incident omit any mention of the pilots’ radio conversation, resolving the disappearance as a navigational error which caused the planes to run out of fuel. Sanderson states that a Martin mariner was deployed to search for the planes and that it disappeared “within fifteen minutes.” Other reports claim that a nearby tanker witnessed an explosion as well as an oil slick leading to the conclusion that the Mariner had exploded, most likely a result of vapor leaks from being overloaded with fuel.
A 1966 story on this incident incorrectly referred to the area of occurrence as the Bermuda Triangle, even though, according to Sanderson, it is shaped more like a lozenge. Once Sanderson began researching the area, he began receiving information about other areas where similar anomalies had occurred. The first of these was the Devil’s Sea, off the coast of Japan. According to legend, there have been numerous disappearances in the area, causing the Japanese government to declare the area unsafe. When Sanderson appeared on The Dick Cavett Show to discuss his theories, expecting to go head to head with the very vocal critic, Arthur Godfrey, he was astonished to find that Godfrey had his own tales of strange occurrences to share, beginning with a report of his radio and other instruments going off while flying over the Devil’s Sea. The Devil’s Sea is also referred to as the Dragon’s Triangle, despite Sanderson’s assertion that these areas are lozenges, not triangles.
The next area to catch his attention was in the Mediterranean, near the site of the Algerian megaliths. While the megaliths themselves are a source of mystery, it was the disappearance of two submarines and four small vessels which made him take notice. Shortly, thereafter, Sanderson received a letter from a woman who supposedly had no knowledge of his investigation of the Bermuda Triangle. The woman claimed that there was an area near Afghanistan where planes transporting gold bullion had been disappearing, with some of the gold being found but no trace of the planes. This particular area also happens to be the site of Mohenjo-Daro, an ancient city that was one of the largest settlements of the Indus Valley Civilizations. Sanderson’s article does not mention the city or the mystery of its demise.
With four areas in a straight line, each one seventy-two degrees away from the one before it, Sanderson and his team plotted the fifth which would complete the circle. The location turned out to be just to the northeast of the Hawaiian islands, which happens to be the location of the underwater Hamkulia Volcano. This area was of no significance to Sanderson or his cohorts at the time. But during the talk show with Godfrey, he learned that Godfrey was supposed to have been on an experimental flight called the Mars, but he missed the flight and had to watch it on the radar instead. He claims it was there one minute, and then had completely disappeared the next.
Having found the five points in the northern hemisphere, Sanderson then turned his attention to the south. In the article, he mentions “alarming disappearances” around three points: “1) off the southeast coast of Argentina; 2) off the southeast coast of South Africa; and, 3) off the southeast coast of Australia, namely the Tasman Sea.” He does not give any specifics, but these areas are included in the list of vile vortices. Southeast of Argentina is the location of an area known as the South Atlantic Anomaly. This is where the inner Van Allen Radiation belt comes closest to the Earth’s surface, causing the magnetic field to be weaker and exposing orbiting satellites to radiation which causes equipment failure. The location off the coast of South Africa includes the New Hebrides Trench and the Loyalty Islands, both of which have been used to identify the same vortex, though Sanderson’s diagram specifies Loyalty Islands. This is also the location of Sandy Island, which never existed but has appeared on maps for years before being “undiscovered.” The one off the southeast coast of Australia is the location of the Zimbabwe megaliths
Sanderson figured out the next two just by assuming they would be seventy-two degrees apart like the ones in the northern hemisphere. He identified Easter Island, yet another site of megaliths, and the Wharton Basin, which his friend described as “an area of deadliness.” The Wharton Basin would later be associated with the disappearance of Malaysian flight 370 in March of 2014. The final two vortices, the North and South Poles, were suggested to Sanderson by professional fliers and, while he acknowledges that time seems to be a little off in these areas, he suggests that it could be due to the fact that compasses don’t work and it’s easy to get disoriented there.
Are these vortices real? The only data Sanderson offers as concrete evidence are reports by professional fliers, which he claims are backed by official records, of planes arriving impossibly early and other such time anomalies. He presents no specific (a.k.a., verifiable) examples of such incidences, but states that they occur frequently in some of the twelve vortices. He admits that he only has rumors of them occurring in the rest. Without any real evidence, these twelve vortices, while interesting to consider, are not so vile after all. The biggest mystery is why no one has written a horror novel called The Thirteenth Vortex.
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