A ship thought to have disappeared a century ago in an area known as the Bermuda Triangle turned up in the Gobi Desert in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Now it has reportedly been found for real. The SS Cotopaxi set out to carry coal from Charleston, SC, to Havana, Cuba, in 1925 and was lost. Underwater explorer Michael Barnette now believes the ship sits in pieces some 35 miles off the coast of St. Augustine, Fla., north of the Bermuda Triangle, having been caught up in a sudden storm for which it was ill-equipped. The site, known as the Bear Wreck, was first discovered almost 35 years ago, and USA Today reports it looks like an "underwater junkyard," which perhaps explains why the identity of the vessel there has remained a mystery for so long.
The steam-powered Cotopaxi departed Nov. 29, 1925, two days before sending out a distress signal received in Jacksonville, Fla., notes CBS News. Barnette determined the signal came from the rough location of the Bear Wreck, which has the same overall length as the Cotopaxi, per Newsweek. The measurements of the boilers sync up, too, and one of the valves came from a company based 12 miles from where the Cotopaxi was built in Michigan. Barnette believes the ship was "doomed" as it confronted a storm so large it was noted in historical weather records. Insurance records show Cotopaxi's wooden hatch covers were in bad shape, meaning water flooding over the ship would have leaked below deck; the crew of 32 would've "had no shelter," he says. More details are to be shared in the series premiere of Science Channel's Shipwreck Secrets on Feb. 9. (Read more shipwreck stories.)