‘Hovering ship’ photo taken in UK was result of ‘optical illusion’

  • 13 Mar - 19 Mar, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Mag Files

A peculiar photograph that seemingly shows a gigantic ship floating in midair has a simple explanation, according to BBC meteorologist David Braine. The picture, which can be seen above, was taken by Falmouth, Cornwall, resident David Morris. It appears to show a container ship in the distance somehow hovering above the water. As Braine explains it, the occurrence – which he called a "superior mirage" – is caused by "special atmospheric conditions that bend light." These type of mirages are rare in the United Kingdom, but happen occasionally in the Arctic. "Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it," Braine said. "Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground or on the coast, changing how a distant object appears," he added. A YouTube search of "superior mirage" brings up a small number of videos showing the illusion. One seems to show large structures on the Lake Michigan horizon just before sunset, while another hosts a compilation of ocean mirages. "Superior mirages can produce a few different types of images," Braine said of the illusion. "Here a distant ship appears to float high above its actual position, but sometimes an object below the horizon can become visible," he added of Morris' picture.