Fans of Tomb Raider 2013 will recall that Lara and the Endurance crew venture into the region known as the Dragon’s Triangle in search of the lost kingdom of Yamatai. Throughout the course of the game, players became well-acquainted with this fictional island, its inhabitants, and the supernatural conditions that prevented people from leaving its shores.
But what do we know about the Triangle itself?
The Dragon’s Triangle, also referred to as the Devil’s Sea (Ma no Umi, 魔の海, in Japanese) or Formosa Triangle, is a region of the Pacific Ocean off the southern coast of Japan and like the Bermuda Triangle, it is often mentioned in connection with paranormal phenomena, unpredictable weather conditions, and the mysterious disappearance of ships and planes.
The Triangle cannot be found on any official maps and there is some disagreement regarding its exact size and location. Some report it as stretching across the Phillippine Sea as far south as Guam and Taiwan while others believe it spanned a smaller area centred around the island Miyake-jima, one of the volcanic islands that make up the Izu Archipelago off the coast of Japan’s Honshu island. The Izu Archipelago is commonly cited in reports and investigations into the supposed mysterious goings-on within the region so let’s take a closer look at this group of islands.
The Izu Archipelago is a chain of volcanic islands and islets that stretch south from Japan’s Izu Peninsula (near Tokyo) towards the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. Located in the volcanically active area known as the “Ring of Fire”, the archipelago is home to numerous underwater volcanoes and is frequently shaken about by earthquakes.
Some 25,000 people live throughout the archipelago, with over half of them living on two of the largest islands, Izu Ōshima and Hachijō-jima. Thousands of tourists flock to these islands each year to indulge in extreme sports, explore the island’s nature reserves, chill out in their hot springs, and sunbathe on their beautiful sandy beaches. Tomb Raider 2013 would have been a very different game if the Endurance had been shipwrecked on any of the archipelago’s larger islands.
That said, travel to these islands can sometimes be disrupted by typhoons or volcanic eruptions. In 2000, a series of eruptions from Miyake-jima’s Mount Oyama released huge clouds of toxic gases into the air, prompting an island-wide evacuation and disrupting air traffic in the area for several years. The residents of Miyake-jima were only allowed back home in 2005 and under the condition that they carry gas masks around with them at all times.
While the Izu Islands are very much real, the stories surrounding the Dragon’s Triangle should probably be taken with a generous pinch of salt.
The linguist and language teacher Charles Berlitz devoted much of his life to the study of anomalous phenonema and wrote several books on Atlantis, pseudoarchaeology and other fringe topics. He helped popularize the myths surrounding the Bermuda Triangle in the 1960s and 70s and went on to publish a book about the Dragon’s Triangle in 1989.
In his book, Berlitz wrote that several Japanese military and research vessels had gone missing in the region in the early 1950s, among these the scientific research vessel Kaiyo Maru No. 5, which vanished in September 1952 (or 1953 depending on the source used).
However, many of his claims have since been debunked by modern research and by the former pilot and author Larry Kusche and science writer Brian Dunning, host of the popular podcast Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena. We now know that the Kaiyo Maru No. 5 did not vanish into thin air as Berlitz claimed but had actually been destroyed when the submarine volcano Myōjin-shō erupted beneath it. Just one of the perils of piloting a ship through a volcanically active region…
So while the region is highly prone to earthquakes, typhoons, and volcanic eruptions, it’s safe to say that the Dragon’s Triangle’s involvement in the supernatural may be somewhat exaggerated.
But should you decide to seek out the Sun Queen’s lost kingdom yourself, just use the UTM coordinates 53, 712541, 3416095 (seen on Lara’s desk in the opening cinematic), type them into this GPS Geoplaner, and see where they take you. 😉
Sources & Further Reading:
- The Bermuda Triangle and the Devil’s Sea (Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena)
- Devil’s Sea (Wikipedia)
- Dragon’s Triangle (Tomb Raider Wiki)
- Dragon’s Triangle (Devil’s Sea) (Paranormal Encyclopedia)
- Dragon’s Triangle (aka Devil’s Sea) (The Skeptic’s Dictionary)
- Gas Mask Tourism on the Izu Islands (Atlas Obscura)
- Izu Islands (Wikipedia)
- Izu Islands (Wikitravel)
- Mysterious waters: from the Bermuda Triangle to the Devil’s Sea (CNN Travel)
- The Sea of the Devil (Circa71)
- What is the Dragon’s Triangle (WiseGEEK)
- A Pilgrimage to Himiko’s Tomb
- The Hunt for Himiko: Will Archaeologists Ever Excavate the Hashihaka Tomb?
- Have Archaeologists Discovered Himiko’s Tomb?