10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Fata Morgana Phenomenon

There are two types of mirages; one is called superior while the other inferior.

Have you ever had the chance to witness a mirage? I have read about different types of illusions in numerous books and reports. One of my favourites is known as the ‘Fata Morgana Phenomenon’. A Fata Morgana Phenomenon is a superior mirage that is seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. The atmosphere of the sea combined with light from multiple angles plays a strange yet captivating trick. It gives an illusion of multiple things; a looming island, floating ship or a false wall of water.

fata morgana
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The aforementioned mirages were considered some sort of magic in the olden days. People, in general, had insufficient information about illusions. However, things changed when a couple of explorers debunked the phenomenon.

I have accumulated ten peculiar yet interesting facts regarding the Fata Morgana Phenomenon. Let’s have a look at them, shall we? 

1) In 1818, a British explorer called John Ross entered Lancaster Sound while exploring the Northwest Passage. He could not go further as a mountain was barring his ship’s course. He named it the Croker Mountains, but it was eventually discovered that the mountains did not exist in reality. It was nothing but a mirage.

2) Once people discovered the reality of the phenomenon, they named it after Morgan le Fay. Fay was a shape-shifting sorceress and half-sister of King Arthur. As per ancient accounts, she lured careless sailors to their deaths.

3) Fata Morgana requires a specific atmospheric condition called ‘temperature inversion’. A layer of colder air above the seawater gets trapped below the layer of warmer air. Light hits the layers from a different angle and gives an illusion. This particular process is called ‘refraction’.

4) People generally witness the glory of mirages in hot or humid weather conditions. The warmer layer of air hits the ground, and light travelling downwards gets refracted upwards. This process creates an illusion of water. Also, this is known as the inferior mirage.

5) The Fata Morgana Phenomenon is a mirage that is usually linked with the open ocean but can also be witnessed on land.

6) Experts claim that in Fata Morgana, lights travelling upwards from a faraway ship get refracted downwards, making these objects appear to be floating in the sky or bigger than actually are.

7) The Fata Morgana mirage changes quickly, and sometimes many refracted images are heaped on top of one another. They end up giving an illusion of compressed and extended zones.

8) The Fata Morgana is responsible for all sorts of strange sightings, from mountains in the middle of the ocean to ships that seem to be flying. Moreover, it is the source of the legend of the Flying Dutchman.

9) According to the tales of the sea, the Flying Dutchman is a ghost ship doomed to sail forever. It collects the souls of the dead sailors from the ocean. Multiple experts believe that this particular story originated in the 17th century. Several sailors reported witnessing the light emanating from the Flying Dutchman. Experts ultimately concluded that the said ghost ship is nothing but a superior mirage.

10) Quite a lot of experts claim that the atmospheric conditions were accurate the night Titanic went under the ocean. A false horizon may have blocked the view of the iceberg that sent the ship to the watery grave.

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