SS Cotopaxi was assumed swallowed by the infamous Bermuda Triangle after the steamship, and all 32 crew members on board, inexplicably vanished in 1925.
The SS Cotopaxi—an American merchant steamer—left Charleston, South Carolina, on Nov. 29, 1925, with a cargo of coal, destined for Havana, Cuba, but the vessel didn't make it far. The vessel vanished without a trace and the fate of the Cotopaxi and the 32 people on board has long puzzled experts.
"The Cotopaxi was on a routine voyage," marine biologist and underwater explorer Michael Barnette told Newsweek. "She was employed in the coal trade and so this was just another trip at the end of November of 1925. We know that on that voyage something happened because she delivered a mayday message early December saying she's in distress.
"And then that was it. They never found any wreckage. They never found any lifeboats, bodies or anything. The vessel just disappeared after that point. So we've been trying to determine what happened."
When Barnette moved to Florida from the mid-Atlantic almost 20 years ago, he sought out shipwrecks he could explore while diving. One wreck in particular, known to locals as "the Bear Wreck" and located about 35 nautical miles (65 kilometres) off the eastern coast of St. Augustine, in northern Florida, caught his attention.
Unlike most shipwrecks in that area, the Bear Wreck was large. Intrigued, Barnette did some research; he took measurements of the shipwreck, looked at historical newspaper articles and insurance records, and examined artefacts found at the wreck.
The search for the wreck began thousands of miles away from the Bermuda Triangle in London, England. Barnette contacted British historian Guy Walters and asked him to dig through the archives of Lloyd's of London, which contains insurance documents related to the ship's fateful voyage.
During his search, Walters managed to uncover evidence that the Cotopaxi had sent out a distress signal on December 1, 1925—a key piece of information that historians had not previously known about.