Phenomenon that made ship float off Cornwall ’caused Titanic sinking’

An expert has given a fascinating insight into the viral image showing a ship floating off the Cornish coast last week, saying it is an echo of what he claims caused the Titanic to crash.

On Thursday Cornwall Live reported how a man was left in shock after capturing a stunning optical illusion off the Cornish coast showing a large boat appearing to float across the sky.

David Morris snapped the spectacle recently looking out to sea from Gillan on the Helford, not far from Helston.

His picture shows the large vessel appearing to float in the blue sky above the water.

Due to the similar colouring of the sea and sky, the large vessel appears to be sitting amongst the clouds.

Since the picture went viral and was reported by news outlets around the world, Cornwall Live has been contacted by author, historian and TV presenter Tim Maltin who is one of the world’s leading experts on the Titanic.

Tim has provided a detailed explanation of what caused the mind-boggling floating ship.

He said: “It’s great to see such a clear photograph of a cold water mirage off the coast of Cornwall. This phenomenon is caused when cold air near the sea surface sits below warmer air higher up.

“The technical term for this is a thermal inversion, which creates abnormal refraction where light bends downwards, towards the colder and more dense air near the sea. This has the effect of making distant objects appear higher than they normally would.

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“This ship apparently floating in the air is the opposite of the hot road mirage motorists sometimes observe in summer, where light bending upwards causes a slice of sky to appear on the ground. The brain typically interprets this as water – a phenomenon which has caused thirsty people in the desert to believe that a lake is on the horizon.

“The hot road or desert mirage is called an inferior mirage because objects -including parts of the sky – appear lower than normal. David Morris’s excellent photograph shows the opposite effect, where objects appear higher than normal, known as a ‘superior mirage’.”

Tim further claimed the Gillan photograph is “an echo of the Titanic tragedy” that occurred on April 15 1912.

He added: “On that occasion the very cold air near the sea caused the distant horizon to appear higher than normal. This is known as a miraging strip at the horizon, which appeared like a haze although the weather was crystal clear, causing the fatal iceberg to be seen too late.

The floating ship taken from Gillan on the Helford estuary
(Image: David Morris)

“Even more tragically, the abnormally raised horizon behind the Titanic caused her to appear to the nearby Californian to be a 400ft ship only five miles away, when in fact she was the 800ft Titanic, sinking about 10 miles away.

“That optical illusion caused the Californian’s captain to believe that what they thought was a relatively small nearby ship had no radio, as they knew the only ship in the area with radio that night was the Titanic.

“So Californian instead signalled Titanic by Morse lamp, but the stratified air in the thermal inversion, combined with the much greater than apparent distance to Titanic, caused the Morse lamp signals between the two vessels to appear like randomly flickering masthead lamps.

“In the final nail in Titanic’s coffin that night, her distress rockets were exploding in the normally refracting air high up, but Titanic’s hull was seen distorted through the very cold air nearer the sea surface, which optical effects combined to make Titanic’s rockets appear very low.

“These unusual optical phenomena caused comprehension errors on Californian which meant that the nearest vessel to Titanic took no action to rescue her 2,200 passengers from the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.”

You can read Tim’s blog here

Cornwall Live