‘Ghost Ship’ That Disappeared A Century Ago Discovered in Mysterious Bermuda Triangle

By: Kate Row | Last updated: Jul 03, 2024

The Bermuda Triangle has long been one of the most mysterious places on Earth. Many ships and aircrafts that have entered this area of the ocean have never come out, inspiring countless theories to try to explain these bizarre occurrences.

Scientists may have finally closed one such mystery involving a vessel that seemingly disappeared into thin air 100 year ago.

Mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is located in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is roughly considered to be the spot of ocean between Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico.


Source: Reddit

So many boats and aircrafts have disappeared in this area that it has developed a reputation for having mysterious powers. Some of the most notable disappearances include a group of U.S. Navy planes in 1945, a cargo ship called SS Sandra in 1963, and a yacht called Witchcraft in 1967.


A 100-Year-Old Mystery May Have Been Solved

While filming the popular Discovery show Shipwreck Secrets, Michael Barnette and his team of researchers located a vessel that disappeared into thin air decades ago. The SS Cotopaxi was a cargo ship that set sail off the coast of Charleston South Carolina on November 29, 1925.


Source: Wikipedia

The ship was supposed to go to Havana, Cuba to drop off a shipment of coal, but it never arrived. There were 32 crew members onboard the boat that were never seen or heard from again.

The Ocean Covers 70% of the Earth’s Surface

In total, the ocean covers around 70% of the Earth’s surface. And much of this space has been left undiscovered and untouched throughout history.

The waves of the ocean.

Christoffer Engström/Unsplash

Due to this, it is entirely possible for ships to go missing without a trace. However, there is also the possibility that these missing ships can turn up sooner or later.

No Trace of the Wreckage

When the vessel and crew members did not arrive in Cuba with the cargo delivery, the crew members were declared missing and a thorough investigation was launched to locate the SS Cotopaxi and its crew.


Source: Wikipedia

However, despite a thorough search, no crew members were located and no sign of wreckage from the boat was ever located either. Since then, the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle and the SS Cotopaxi has fascinated scientists.

Michael Barnette's Team Makes an Important Discovery

Michael Barnette is an infamous shipwreck explorer and marine biologist. He believes his team has uncovered the remains of what was once the SS Cotopaxi. They found in their research of old records that a distress signal was put out in the area on December 1, 1925.

Source: Youtube

Jacksonville, Florida picked up the signal, which notified Barnette’s team of the general location of the vessel at that time. The area is known as “Break Wreck” and can be found just off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida.


Barnette Discovered the Wreck 15 Years Ago

This isn’t the first time that Barnette has discovered the wreckage. He first dove to the wreckage 15 years before he was able to identify it.

A black and white image of the SS Cotopaxi in the sea.

Unknown Author/Wikimedia Commons

He said that he knew in his heart that the wreckage was SS Cotopaxi; however, he couldn’t say for certain until he investigated the ship further.


SS Cotopaxi Found 35 Years Ago

The actual wreckage of the boat was unknowingly discovered around 35 years ago. The area had long been known to contain a sunken ship, but no one knew of the ship’s identity.

A black and white image of the SS Cotopaxi.

Unknown/Wikimedia Commons

No one had been able to get a close enough look at the ship to figure out what its identity was. Thankfully, Barnette and his team has since been able to do that.


A Previous Viral and Fake Report

Another reason why Barnette was reluctant to say he had found SS Cotopaxi was due to a previous viral and fake report five years previous that the ship had been found.

A black and white image of the SS Cotopaxi docked on the water.

Unknown Author/Wikimedia Commons

The report claimed that the ship had been found by a Cuban coast guard off the coast of Cuba. However, since the ship was found in Florida, this is now known to be false.


An Unmanned Ship Heading for the Island

At the time of the false report, it claimed that the coast guard has spotted an unmanned ship heading for the island and that it had to be intercepted.

A rusty SS Cotopaxi on the water.


The ship was said to be near a restricted military zone, west of Havana. As a ship that had been missing for almost a century was unlikely to still be able to float on the water and was more likely to have sunk, this gave even more reason for that report to be false.


Using Current Technology to Unravel the Mystery

The research team used a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) to scan the “Break Wreck” area. There they found the remains of a vessel with striking resemblances to the missing SS Cotopaxi.

Source: Pinterest

Barnette’s team is not only interested in locating the missing vessel, though. They want to understand what happened that caused the boat to go off course and disappear. The team is doing research dives on-site as well as combing through insurance records in order to piece together a theory as to what happened to the crew.


Proving the Wreck is Really the SS Cotopaxi

Barnette’s team isn’t the only one that has been on a mission to find the SS Cotopaxi and understand what went wrong back in 1925. Finding the wreck was one thing, but confirming it truly is this particular 100-year-old vessel is another.

Source: Reddit

Barnette and his diving partner took countless measurements of the wreckage and compared them to the old blueprints that were used to build the Cotopaxi. These measurements aligned and the team even found some coal, which is what the ship was supposed to deliver to Cuba.


St. Augustine Causes a Lot of Shipwrecks

The inlet to get into St. Augustine is very shallow and tends to move around a lot. Due to this, a lot of shipwrecks have happened around the area.

A bridge and body of water in St. Augustine, Florida.

KaroGraphic Photography/Unsplash

It’s also not all that mysterious that the ship disappeared. Due to the amount of ships that pass through this area, and the hazards such as coral reefs and hurricanes, shipwrecks are always likely to happen.


Should the Bermuda Triangle Always Be Blamed?

Before the SS Cotopaxi was discovered in Florida, the Bermuda Triangle had taken the hit for the reason the ship went missing.

A map of the Bermuda Triangle.


As it was found nowhere near this area, this puts into question whether the Bermuda Triangle should continue to be blamed for things going missing, or whether it is just a sheer coincidence.


Understanding How the SS Cotopaxi Went Missing

Barnette’s team found that there were two main contributing factors to the sinking of the SS Cotopaxi. Namely, they believe a powerful and unexpected storm drove the boat off course.

Source: Freepik

This is also the most likely explanation for most boat disappearances. There are many Atlantic hurricanes that pass directly through the triangle and these storms can be catastrophic, especially if boats are hit unexpectedly.


Putting the Pieces Together

Barnette found a lawsuit filed by the family members of one of the lost crew members against the company who owned the SS Cotopaxi. A carpenter who had worked on some repairs for the boat testified that many ships like the Cotopaxi had similar design flaws. He explained that water from the upper deck would leak into the cargo hold, causing flooding and inevitably sinking the ship.

Source: Pexels

Barnette found exactly this to be true in his research of the boat. The ship’s cargo holds were in bad shape, which would have easily allowed for water to flood the deck below. He stated that it was easy to see how the situation would have gone from “bad to catastrophic in a very short order”.


Solving the Mystery

Barnette was thrilled to close the case on the SS Cotopaxi. He stated, “As a diver, we want to identify these shipwrecks. So you get excited when you actually do that, but then you sometimes go through an emotional roller coaster whereupon that realization of what this vessel is, you also learn what it signifies: in this case, the grave of 32 men”.

Source: Pexels

Some of the crew members who lost their lives have living relatives. One such example is Gregory West of Charleston, whose Great Uncle was onboard the SS Cotopaxi. He stated that the discovery and understanding of what happened to the boat “really does help bring closure”.


Not Ruling Out the Supernatural

While his family now has closure, they are not willing to rule out the supernatural entirely. West turned on the TV a few nights after the discovery to find something spooky.

A person shining a torch into the sky with the stars lit up around them. They are standing on top of a mountain.

Dino Reichmuth/Unsplash

When he tuned on the TV, a film was playing. But this wasn’t any film, as this was “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which West believes is his Uncle talking to him.


SS Cotopaxi in Mainstream Media

SS Cotopaxi has been portrayed in mainstream media, showing just how well-known this case is and renewing public interest in the disappearance of the ship.

The SS Cotopaxi portrayed in the film "Encounters of the Third Kind."


The sci-fi film “Encounters of the Third Kind” depicts the ship’s disappearance. However, the film claims that the reason behind the ship’s disappearance was due to aliens.


A Navy Submarine Mysteriously Disappeared

Another ship that mysteriously disappeared was a Navy submarine. Over 80 years after its disappearance, a diver found it underwater.

A submarine with bunting around it in the sea.

Ah Het/Unsplash

It went missing in January 1942 in the Aegean Sea. Kostas Thoctarides, an experienced diver, has found other missing items before, but this one topped the list.


Face Prints on a Ship

Another mystery evidenced by a photo is two faces that were imprinted on the side of S. S. Waterdown. This came just after two crewmembers had died while cleaning the ship’s oil tank.

A black and white image of two faces on the side of a ship with two white arrows pointing at them.

most haunted plaCE iN india..BHANGARH fORT..!!!/Facebook

The two faces were noticed the day after their deaths and burial at sea, which led many to question how this could have happened.


The Missing MH370 Plane

One of the most confusing mysteries of the modern era is the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 back in 2014.

The Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 taking off in the sky.


In an era where technology can supposedly easily find anything and anyone, there is a lot of confusion as to how a plane can just drop off a radar in mysterious circumstances, never to be seen again.


Bermuda Triangle Theories

While this case was solved using research and science, there are still countless theories as to what happens in the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. Barnette and other like-minded scientists believe that research can be used to explain some of the seemingly “odd” occurrences.

Source: Pinterest

To this day, there are counts of vessels mysteriously disappearing into the area. And since we have only really explored less than 5% of the Earth’s vast ocean, it is no surprise that some conspiracy theories still run wild.