The real-life Flying Dutchman? Bizarre photos baffle the internet

Cornwall, UK - Times are strange enough even without photos of a flying ship going viral – but are these images from the British coast just an optical illusion?

Does this freighter sail not on the water, but through the air?
Does this freighter sail not on the water, but through the air?  ©

Photographer David Morris recently took a picture of a container ship in Cornwall, in the far southwest of England, and the result makes it look as if the large freighter is hovering hundreds of feet above sea level.

A very similar photo was taken on February 26 by Colin McCallum in Banff, a community on the north coast of Scotland. Again, a container ship weighing several tons seems to be hanging in the air far above the North Sea.

Both snaps have already caused a lot of confusion on social media, as most "can't understand what's happening," as one Facebook user put it.

But there is a scientific explanation for the bizarre phenomenon: according to BBC meteorologist David Braine, these are simply mirages.

Meteorologist explains what the flying ships are all about

According to the weather expert, the "superior mirage", an optical phenomenon in which an object appears to be located above the plain, occurred 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," Blaine explained.

However, he adds, that while those illusions are quite common in the Arctic, they can "very rarely" appear in the UK in winter. Even objects below the horizon can become visible again, according to the meteorologist.

And with that, everyone was promptly brought back down to earth again.

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