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'Floating Ship' Phenomenon Could Explain What Happened To Titanic, Expert Says

Jess Hardiman

| Last updated 

'Floating Ship' Phenomenon Could Explain What Happened To Titanic, Expert Says

The strange phenomenon of ships appearing to 'float' above water may help unlock some of the mysteries surrounding the Titanic, which sank in 1912, according to historian and author Tim Maltin.

A photo of a ship off the coast of Falmouth, Cornwall, recently went viral after people became baffled by the fact it seemed to be hovering above the water.

The unusual optical illusion is known as Fata Morgana, which is a type of mirage often associated with the open ocean.

Maltin believes the 100ft iceberg that sunk the historic ship may have been missed by lookouts on board because of a similar Fata Morgana mirage event.

The Titanic. Credit: PA
The Titanic. Credit: PA

It is caused when cold air near the sea's surface sits under a blanket a warmer air, creating an abnormal refraction in which light bends downwards, in an effect known as thermal inversion.

Speaking to The Sun, Maltin explained that, in the case of the Titanic, the phenomeon may have meant the iceberg wasn't spotted against the white haze along the horizon known as a 'mirage strip' - until, of course, it was too late.

He said: "The Titanic sank in the freezing waters of the Labrador Current in the North Atlantic, surrounded by dozens of large icebergs, some of which were 200 feet high.

"But above the level of the top of those icebergs much warmer air drifted across from the nearby warmer waters of the Gulf Stream, trapping cold air underneath it.

"This created the same thermal inversion conditions at Titanic's crash site as seen along the coast of Britain recently, creating a band of light haze above which ships appeared to float in the sky."

Another example of Fata Morgana. Credit: PA
Another example of Fata Morgana. Credit: PA

The photo of the 'hovering ship' in Falmouth was captured by walker David Morris, who told the BBC he was 'stunned' after taking the snap while looking out to sea from the hamlet of Gillan.

BBC meteorologist David Braine explained: "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.

"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.

"Superior mirages can produce a few different types of images - here a distant ship appears to float high above its actual position, but sometimes an object below the horizon can become visible."

Featured Image Credit: Apex/David Morris

Topics: Optical Illusion, World News, News, History, titanic

Jess Hardiman
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