Skip to main content

The Tale of the Flying Tanker

Screen Shot 2021-03-08 at 4.09.45 PM

Foiling technology has come a long way, allowing boats to soar above the surface, but that doesn’t mean boats can literally fly through the air–right?

David Morris may have been second guessing this for a moment when he saw a tanker ship hovering above the sea in Cornwall, England, while standing on a nearby hamlet. Alas, it was not a real-life hover boat, but the optical illusion was the product of phenomenon that is perhaps just as interesting.

Superior mirages are caused by a meteorological event called a temperature inversion. This is when warm air sits on top of cold air, rather than the temperature dropping with altitude. Though most common in the Arctic, the phenomenon can occur under certain conditions in other parts of the world. In the case of the flying tanker, cold air was resting above the cold sea, with warm air above.

Cold air is denser than warm air, which causes the light to bend towards the eyes of onlookers standing on the coast as is passes through the cold air, making the object to appear to be in a higher position than it actually is.

So, no, boats cannot really fly through the air–not yet at least. But when the weather conditions are just right, superior mirages will continue to confuse and fascinate mariners for the rest of time.


Screen Shot 2021-02-01 at 4.12.12 PM

Cargo Ship Splits in Two off Turkey

An onboard camera captures a Ukrainian cargo ship splitting in two in heavy seas.


Rescuers Save Man a Day After His Boat Capsizes

A dramatic video captures Japan’s Coast Guard rescuing a 69-year-old man in rough seas after his boat capsizes.

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 2.00.11 PM

The Power of Women Who Sail

After becoming accomplished in a male-dominated sport, Gail Hine took it upon herself to get more women involved.

Screen Shot 2021-09-21 at 3.52.33 PM

Runaway Boat Heads for Swimmers in Florida

A runaway boat was recovered in Florida after its operator fell overboard.

Screen Shot 2022-05-03 at 4.21.18 PM

Pilot Whales Swim with Boat in Maldives

A pair of short-finned pilot whales swim near the bow of a boat carrying a large number of people in the Maldives.


Boat Bursts in Flames After Owners Harass Boaters Flying Pride Flags

Moments after shouting gay slurs at a boat flying LGBTQ Pride flags, passengers find themselves swimming for their lives.

Screen Shot 2020-10-22 at 2.57.00 PM

Two Right Whales Critically Endangered

A 4-year-old and an 11-year-old right whale have been spotted entangled in fishing gear, and the outcome may be grim.