BIZARRE “floating ships” seen off the coast of the UK could help unlock the mystery of the sinking of the Titanic, according to a leading expert.
Historian and author Tim Maltin believes a rare “Fata Morgana” mirage event meant the 100ft iceberg which sunk the legendary ship wasn’t seen by its lookouts until far too late.
Fata Morgana can make ships float – but can also distort, invert and obscure things on the horizon as light is bent through the clashing warm and cold air. As seen here near Falmouth.[/caption]
The mind-bending mirage is caused when cold air near the sea’s surface sits below a blanket of warmer air creating abnormal refraction where light bends downwards, an effect called “thermal inversion”.
This has the effect of making distant objects appear higher than normal – which can, among other effects, make ships seem to float as the horizon bends.
Mr Maltin explains in the case of the Titanic the mirage meant the fateful iceberg was lost in the blurry haze known as a “sea hedge”.
The effect is a blurry distortion across the horizon which makes it appear much closer, and would have obscured the looming ice mountain.
Mr Maltin told The Sun Online: “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 apparent fog banks or ‘sea hedges’ above which ships appeared to float in the sky.”
One of the lookouts on duty that night even told an official inquiry into the tragedy that the ice mountain suddenly appeared as a dark mass out of the peculiar haze in front of them.
Mr Maltin is a British author, historian and TV presenter and is also one of the world’s leading experts on the the legendary liner – having appeared on documentaries on the ship for the BBC, Smithsonian and National Geographic.
The night the Titanic sank was also calm and clear, but Titanic’s lookouts noticed the mirage strip appearing like a band of haze stretching all around the horizon
Fata Morgana has been linked to numerous famous legends, include phantom islands, UFOs, cities in the sky, and even the ghost ship the “Flying Dutchman”.
These freakish events mainly occur in the Arctic regions during the Spring creating the sea hedges on the surface even when the weather is completely clear.
The sun warms up the sea throughout the day, and then even at night when Titanic crashed the event can linger – bending light so human eyes can only see a distorted false horizon.
And it is in this so-called sea hedge that the Titanic’s crew would have lost sight of the massive iceberg until it was too late – crashing the luxury vessel and sealing its fate.
Tim Maltin is a British author, historian and TV presenter[/caption]
So what is Fata Morgana?
FATA Morgana is created when the sun heats up the atmosphere above either the land or the sea.
A layer of warmer air sits on top of a layer of cold air, causing the light to bend and making colours blend together.
For a Fata Morgana to appear, the atmospheric conditions have to be just right.
It starts with a cold air mass close to the ground or surface of the water that is topped by a warm layer of air higher in the atmosphere.
Although the phenomenon can occur on land, they are more common at sea because water helps to form the cool air layer required.
Floating ships – like have been seen off Britain recently – are just one possible effect of the Fata Morgana.
It can warp, distort and obscure images – squashing them, making them blend into the horizon, or even producing chilling spooky inversions where a mirror image appears above the object.
Fata Morgana can also take the form a “sea hedge” – which almost appears like a wall of water as the horizon looks much closer.
The phenomena has been linked have numerous folklore tales, such as the infamous ghost ship the Flying Dutchman.
It has also been blamed for the appearances of phantom islands, such as the legendary Sannikov Land in Russia and the non-existence mountain-range the Croker Mountains.
More recently Fata Morgana has been linked to sightings of UFOs and it is increasingly caught on camera.
Numerous photos document the mirage which show warped images of ships on the horizon, glistening walls of water appearing out to sea, or even cities in the sky.
The mirage takes its name from Morgan le Fay – a sorceress from Arthurian legend – said to use her witchcraft to lure unwitting sailors into her traps.
Titanic expert Mr Maltin also believe the unusual conditions foiled a possible rescue mission by the nearby SS Californian, after the supposedly “unsinkable ship” went down in the Atlantic on April 15, 1912 killing more than 1,500 people.
He said the current “floating ship” phenomenon really is an “eerie echo of the Titanic tragedy.”
Brits were baffled when a number of ships last week were spotted hovering off the coast, including near Banff, Aberdeenshire and Paignton, Devon.
Maltin said the recent photos of apparently hovering vessels clearly show the same unusual atmospheric phenomenon which he believes fooled the Titanic’s experienced officers.
Matlin told The Sun Online: “In fact several ships which passed through the area in which Titanic sank, both before and after the Titanic tragedy, recorded abnormal refraction and mirages at the horizon.
More than 2,200 passengers and crew were on board when the liner started sinking[/caption]
It’s claimed a rare phenomenon may have hindered a rescue mission[/caption]
The nearby SS Californian was relatively near the titanic when it went down[/caption]
“The night the Titanic sank was also calm and clear, but Titanic’s lookouts noticed the mirage strip appearing like a band of haze stretching all around the horizon, as they entered the thermal inversion in the ice region.
“Titanic did not slow down because the weather was so clear that her captain expected to see ice in time to avoid it.
“But the optical effect of the apparent fog bank around the horizon reduced the contrast between the icebergs and the sky and sea beyond them.”
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 appears like a haze and caused the fatal iceberg to be seen too late.”
Cruise ships were seen ‘hovering’ above the waters near Paignton, Devon[/caption]
This amazing picture shows how an abnormal refraction can create a wall of haze[/caption]
Chart showing the estimated location of other ships on the night of the disaster[/caption]
The doomed Titanic (right) next to her sister ship the Olympic[/caption]
He went on: “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….. caused the Morse lamp signals between the two vessels to appear like randomly flickering masthead lamps.”
The expert explained the “final nail” in the coffin for the legendary liner was the fact her distress rockets were also lost on the sea hedge – meaning nearby ships could not see them.
THE UNSINKABLE SHIP – FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT THE TITANIC
The Titanic was the world’s largest passenger ship when it entered service – measuring 269 metres – and was the largest man-made moving object on Earth.
It burned around 600 tonnes of coal a day and almost 100 tonnes of ash were ejected into the sea every 24 hours.
There were 20,000 bottles of beer on board, 1,500 bottles of wine and 8,000 cigars – all for the use of first-class passengers.
Up to 246 injuries and two deaths were recorded during the ship’s 26-month construction in Belfast.
First-class passengers were given a book containing 352 songs, with musicians on board required to know all of them in case requests were made.
James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic about the disaster has grossed more than £1.5bn, won 11 Oscars and is one of the highest grossing film of all time.
The last supper served to first-class passengers consisted of 11 courses.
He told The Sun Online: “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.”
The sinking of the Titanic remains the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster, costing the lives of 1,500 men, women and children.
Mr Matlin is the author of three books on the subject, including ‘101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!,’ ‘Titanic’ and ‘Titanic: A Very Deceiving Night.’
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He first became fascinated in the world’s most famous doomed ship aged just seven when he saw the 1958 classic film ‘A Night to Remember’.
Maltin then went on to read first hand accounts from those that survived the tragedy as he says it is the “best way to understand what really happened” on that fateful night.
He works in London and lives in Wiltshire with his wife and two children and recently co-presented a Titanic documentary with historian and TV presenter Dan Snow.