Fata Morgana, Bay of Fundy, Canada

Richard Blacquiere captured this miraged view of the Wolves Archipelago from Point Lepreau. The islands loom impossibly tall like the cliffs guarding Conan Doyle's Lost World. The lighthouse on Southern Wolf Island at far left was ~26km distant. Long lenses are needed for most mirages and Richard used one of 500mm equivalent 35mm film focal length. He was 10-12m above the water level.

I arrived at the [bird] Observatory in the morning to find a superior mirage of some islands and coast line to the west. Birds were nearly forgotten as I watched the view. I took dozens of photos. I kept an eye on the changing display which lasted for at least 2 hours. There were remnants that lasted longer. Other islands and the distant mainland towered to such heights that I kept thinking Fata Morgana. It was something I'll remember.

The normal view of the island is the top image at left. In the mirage the land is stretched upwards into towering cliffs and engulfing all but the top the lighthouse. The mirage was ever changing. In the sequence at left the islands tower and then collapse only to tower again. The lighthouse alters from a white dot to an enormously elongated column. The impossible cliffs are layered there are several stacked mirage images with some probably inverted.

In less extreme forms this would be a superior mirage. It still is, but the pronounced vertical elongation into fantastical shapes is typical of a Fata Morgana (1,2,3,4,5,6). The name is said to be derived from the appearance of the island palace of enchantress Morgana, half-sister of King Arthur.

All images ©Richard Blacquiere, shown with permission.


The top view of the island is un-miraged.

The lower image sequence covers 31 minutes.

There are at times at least 5-6 stacked images alternately inverted and erect.

To the left of the island we see the sea surface itself possibly miraged in the sky as dark bands.

Note the choppy 'horizon', the lower edge of the mirage.
Atmospheric
Optics
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Superior mirage formation ~ Light rays from a distant object are refracted and sent back downwards by passage across the density gradients of a temperature inversion, warmer air above cooler. Light rays curve towards colder air.

The downward rays appear to the easily deceived eye to come from objects floating in the air. Some of them are erect, others inverted. More details here.

A
Fata Morgana is formed by more complex temperature profiles. They smear the multiple images vertically and merge them into one another to form cliffs and even architectural embellishments. Castles in the air..
Inverted images are clearly visible. They drip downwards to meet the lower mirage images
Vertical cliffs and impossibly tall trees?