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Giant ships appear to float in the air in bizarre optical illusion in Greece 

High seas: Giant ships appear to float in the air in bizarre optical illusion in Greece

  • A rare optical illusion in Thessaloniki tricked residents into seeing floating ships
  • The vessels appeared to float above the sea in the Thermaic Gulf in Greece
  • But the strange sight is in fact a result of the deceptive Fata Morgana mirage 

Holiday-goers and locals in Thessaloniki spotted what appeared to be ships floating in the air on a sunny day.

The large vessels seemed to drift lazily across the air above the waterline, violating the laws of physics.

But keen observers may notice that the strange sight is in fact a trick of the light, played on the viewer by the inversion of warm and cool air.

A Fata Morgana is a form of mirage caused when rays of light bend as they pass through air layers of different temperatures.

It can be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions, or in deserts.

Ships are pictured ‘hovering’ above the water in Thessaloniki, northern Greece

The large vessels seem to violate the laws of physics as they drift across the air

The large vessels seem to violate the laws of physics as they drift across the air

But the strange sight is in fact a type of mirage known as a Fata Morgana, thought to be the source of the legend of the Flying Dutchman

But the strange sight is in fact a type of mirage known as a Fata Morgana, thought to be the source of the legend of the Flying Dutchman

The mirage can be responsible for many unusual sightings, occurring on land, in polar regions, or in deserts

The mirage can be responsible for many unusual sightings, occurring on land, in polar regions, or in deserts

The phenomenon has occurred in a few parts of Greece, such as the western side of Samothrace. 

The mirage is thought to be the source of the legend of the Flying Dutchman, according to Jonathan Eyers’ 2011 book Don’t Shoot the Albatross!: Nautical Myths and Superstitions.

The mirage is not limited to the sea, and can be responsible for many unusual sightings, including mountains that appear to be hovering.

Frata Morgana is the Italian name for Morgan le Fay, the Arthurian sorceress believed to use withcraft to conjure up fairy castles used to lure sailors to their deaths.

Multiple ‘floating ships’ have been photographed and videoed over the years, with boats appearing to hover off the coat of Britain in Cornwall, Devon and Aberdeenshire in once incident.

In another sighting, four ships appeared to hover above the sea off the coast of Cyprus, forming a line just east of the southern city of Limassol.

The Anthem of the Seas cruise ship, an 168,000-tonne Royal Caribbean liner, looked like it was hovering above the water

The Anthem of the Seas cruise ship, an 168,000-tonne Royal Caribbean liner, looked like it was hovering above the water

In March, a series of boats were spotted 'floating in mid-air' off the coast of Britain in Cornwall, Devon and Aberdeenshire as a result of the phenomenon. Pictured a 'floating' ship in Banff, Aberdeenshire

In March, a series of boats were spotted ‘floating in mid-air’ off the coast of Britain in Cornwall, Devon and Aberdeenshire as a result of the phenomenon. Pictured a ‘floating’ ship in Banff, Aberdeenshire  

What is a Frata Morgana? 

A Fata Morgana is a type of mirage that distort distance objects, and can be can be seen on land or sea.

It’s caused when the sun heats up the atmosphere above the land or oceans, which creates a gradient of temperatures.

The air close to the surface is relatively cool and above that are layers of warmer air.

When light hits a boundary between two layers of the atmosphere that are different temperatures – and as a result different densities – it bends and travels at a different angle.

Our brain assumes that light travels in a straight paths, so when it bends, we think the object is where it would be if the light’s path runs straight.

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