A mirage spotted off the coast of Eastney has divided readers - but one thinks they have found the truth behind the illusion near the Isle of Wight

ATLANTIS? Student housing? A hijacked tanker? A mirage off the coast of Southsea has divided readers on what it appears to be – but one reader thinks he’s found the truth.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 10:24 am
Updated Friday, 18th June 2021, 10:39 am

A spooky mirage of what appeared to be a cityscape was spotted by Eastney beach-goers on Tuesday evening at around 7.30pm.

The illusion seemed to show buildings of various heights far out to sea, a few miles east of the Isle of Wight.

The mirage left onlookers perplexed as it remained stationary on the horizon for more than an hour.

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Caption: A mirage of an 'Eastern bloc' city hovering above the Solent has been spotted from Eastney

The weird phenomenon has sparked a flurry of light-hearted guesses as to what it shows – ranging from hijacked tankers to student accommodation.

Now one reader believes they have figured out the cause of the surreal sight.

Writing to The News, they said: ‘Container ships frequently (ride) at anchor for long periods of time at the deep water anchorages off the SE end of Sandown Bay.

‘A quick check on AIS (automatic identification system) shows one of them to be the ‘MOL TRIBUTE’, currently at anchor along with two bulk tankers and a bulk cargo ship.

A mirage of an 'Eastern bloc' city hovering above the Solent has been spotted from Eastney

‘A check on the time of the photo would reveal the name of the tanker seen in the foreground.’

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Online AIS trackers show that the MOL Tribute – one of the largest container ships in the world – remains at anchor off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

The ship is more than 1,300 feet long – and has a 200,000 gross tonnage capacity.

According to the Met Office, a Fata morgana mirage could explain why part of the ship has been distorted and brought into view from the Portsmouth beach.

A spokesman for the forecaster said: ‘The kind of mirage that appears to be in the image is when you have cooler air near the sea surface with a layer of warmer air above it.

‘A calm, hot and sunny day with a temperature inversion is the ideal setup for this to occur.’

Fata morgana mirages, which are commonly found above large bodies of water, are caused by light rays bending as they pass from cool ground level air to warmer air above it.

The bending of the light rays creates an optical illusion that makes objects appear to hover above the ground.

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