A viral hoax that first emerged online last year claims that SS Cotopaxi, a cargo ship that vanished in the Bermuda Triangle 90 years ago, was discovered by the Cuban Coast Guard drifting aimlessly off the coast of Havana. The story, which went viral when it first emerged online, has resurfaced again recently, forcing a number of online fact-checkers to re-issue articles debunking the story.
The Bermuda Triangle — also known as the Devil’s Triangle — refers to a stretch of sea between the island of Bermuda, the coast of Florida and Puerto Rico, where, according to popular stories, many large oceangoing vessels and airplanes have disappeared mysteriously over several decades.
Popular culture attributes the mysterious disappearances to a variety of causes, such as extraterrestrial beings, supernatural or paranormal activity, a portal to another dimension, and underwater remains of mysterious technology linked with the mythical lost continent of Atlantis.
The viral hoax appears to have originated from an article published on May 18, 2015, by World News Daily Report, a notorious source of fake news reports, blatant hoaxes, and satirical pieces.
The website was responsible for a fake news story in 2014 that claimed archaeologists had discovered an ancient document containing an eyewitness’ account of Jesus performing a miracle.
According to WNDR, coast guards found SS Cotopaxi, a cargo ship that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle while sailing to Havana from South Carolina in 1925, on May 16, 2015, off the coast of Cuba.
SS Cotopaxi, a cargo vessel owned by Clinchfield Navigation Company, left Charleston in South Carolina on November 29, 1925, for Havana in Cuba, with a cargo of more than 2,300 tons of coal and a crew of 32 men, commanded by Captain W.J. Meyer.
On December 1, two days after it left Charleston, the ship sent its final communication, a distress message that the ship was sinking after to a tropical storm.
Despite the fact that the ship was known to have been in distress before it disappeared, popular culture invested its fate with mystery, and stories about the disappearance of the ship gained a prominent place in the lore and legend of the Bermuda Triangle.
But according to WNDR, the tramp steamer reappeared mysteriously on May 16, 2015, nearly 90 years after it went missing.
The website claimed that the Cuban Coast Guard announced early on May 18, 2015, that on May 16, they spotted a ship adrift at sea just outside a restricted zone to the west of Havana. After several unsuccessful attempts to communicate with the ship, three patrol boats were dispatched to intercept it.
The Coast Guard found that the ship was unmanned, and after boarding it, they were surprised to find it was a rusty and cobwebbed century-old tramp steamer that had been abandoned for ages. Documents found on the ship disclosed the shocking information that the ship was the SS Cotopaxi that disappeared mysteriously in the Bermuda Triangle in November of 1925.
The WNDR story went on to claim that a captain’s logbook was found on the ship that gave further evidence that the ship was, in fact, SS Cotopaxi, built in 1918 by the Great Lakes Engineering Works for the Clinchfield Navigation Company. But the logbook yielded no clues about what caused the ship to disappear mysteriously.
According to WNDR, Rodolfo Salvador Cruz, a Cuban expert in navigation history, said the captain’s logbook was authentic. He said the logbook contained valuable information about the day-to-day life of the crew until the moment the ship disappeared.
According to Rodolfo, the logbook stops abruptly on the morning of December 1, 1925, about the time the ship sent its final distress call.
General Abelardo Colome, the vice president of the Council of State of Cuba, said that a thorough investigation was ongoing to determine what caused the ship to disappear and then reappear nearly 90 years later, according to WNDR.
“It is very important for us to understand what happened,” General Colome said, according to WNDR. “Such incidents could be really bad for our economy, so want to make sure that this kind of disappearance doesn’t happen again. The time has come to solve the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, once and for all.”
The fabricated story went viral online, with hundreds of thousands sharing it on social media under the mistaken impression that it was a factual report. But WNDR is a notorious source of fake news reports and hoaxes. The website admits in the disclaimer section that its stories are “satirical.”
“WNDR assumes responsibility for the satirical and fictional nature of its articles. Characters appearing are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.”
Persistence of the rumor that a ship that went missing in the Bermuda Triangle about 90 years ago had reappeared mysteriously off the coast of Cuba forced a number of online fact-checkers, including Snopes, to reissue articles denying the story.
“World News Daily Report is a fake news site whose disclaimer page clearly states that its content is not news and is not meant to be taken seriously,” Snopes said.
“World News Daily Report is a news and political satire web publication. All news articles are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental, except for all references to politicians and/or celebrities, in which case they are based on real people, but still based almost entirely in fiction.”
The website Cargo to Caribbean also reported that the story was “completely false and there is no reality behind the rumors.”
According to the website, Cuban Coast Guard officials also denied the story.
The website also explained that a photo featured in the story, supposedly showing Rodolfo Salvador, the alleged Cuban expert, actually shows Lee Smale, a man from Plymouth in the U.K.
“[Lee Smale] has no relation to this fictional story whatsoever,” Cargo to Caribbean said.
[Featured Image by Susanitah/Shutterstock]