Plane sailing! Cruise ships appear to be floating in the air in bizarre optical illusion as they anchor off the English Riviera in Devon during Covid pandemic
- The postcard perfect photograph was taken from the beach at Paignton, Devon
- The phenomenon, known as Fata Morgana, creates a mirage when sun heats sea
- Fleets of liners have been forced to anchor off the coast during the pandemic
An optical illusion has made three cruise ships anchored off the English Riviera appear to be hovering just above the water.
The postcard perfect photograph, taken from the beach at Paignton, Devon, captured the liners seemingly floating above the horizon.
The phenomenon, known as Fata Morgana, creates a mirage when the sun heats up the atmosphere above the land or oceans, which creates a gradient of temperatures.
A layer of warm air sits on top of a layer of cold air, causing the light from the ship to bend as it passes through gaps in air currents.
The postcard perfect photograph, taken from the beach at Paignton, Devon, captured the liners seemingly floating above the horizon
The picturesque scene also captured a bevy of swans gliding past as the water laps against the shore.
But the tranquility masks the unchartered waters cruise operators are trying to navigate during the pandemic.
International travel remains banned for all but essential trips and a firm date for return was not factored into Boris Johnson’s roadmap for lifting lockdown.
It has meant fleets of liners have been forced to anchor off the coast until they get the green light to begin voyages again.
The phenomenon, known as Fata Morgana, creates a mirage when the sun heats up the atmosphere above the land or oceans, which creates a gradient of temperatures
What is a Fata 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.
Travel companies, deprived of customers and grappling with uncertainty have been among the hardest hit by lockdown.
Cruise liners became hotbeds for infection during the first wave and many were forced to wait outside ports for quarantine periods.
The sight of ships anchoring off the coast during a pandemic has been familiar throughout history – indeed, the word ‘quarantine’ comes from the Italian word ‘quarantino’ – referring to the 40 days traders were made to wait before entering the harbour during the Black Death.
This week Britain’s largest cruise line, P&O, announced a series of week-long tours around the UK to offer short summer breaks while foreign travel remains uncertain.
The firm have said the cruises, departing from Southampton, will go on sale later in March, with details about prices and dates to be announced.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow, said: ‘While holidays here in the UK will be the first to become a reality we will, of course, gradually see the return of international travel but first we want guests to be able to enjoy a proper summer holiday at sea with the best in relaxation, entertainment and dining choice.
‘These sailings will leave from our home port in Southampton and sail around UK coastal waters enjoying the summer sunshine.’
He added: ‘We hope that the UK ultimate escape staycation option will have wide appeal and we will do our utmost to make it a very special time.
‘There really will be something for everyone and the opportunity to spend precious and much-longed for time with family and friends.’
The firm said a number of health and safety measures would be in place to ‘enable everyone to enjoy a wonderful holiday this summer’.