Here's a recent post from "Aventures au Pole Sud," an Antarctiblog maintained in French and English by CalTech researcher Denis Barkats [dbarkats at caltech.edu] one of only 64 people overwintering at the South Pole station:
Today at lunch, we had the chance to see a very cool atmospheric optical effect at the horizon called "fata morgana". Here is a historical explanation of where the name comes from. "Fata Morgana is Italian for "Fairy Morgan", and as legend goes was the half-sister of King Arthur. She was said to live beneath the water and had magical powers capable of building huge cities out of thin air and the make them disappear. There's a certain place in Italy, when in Reggio looking across the Straits of Messina, where this legend has staying power in the eyes of numerous witnesses." This optical illusion is the result of refraction of light though the atmosphere. It happens when a layer of cold air is just above the ground and a layer of warmer air is above it. This causes a mirage which makes an object ( here just snow at the horizon) appear larger or more elevated than it really is. In this case, it appears as a cliff at the horizon, as if a giant iceberg had suddenly moved it. It is quite amazing. Even with binoculars, you see it an you think it real.
Link (Thanks, Holly Beale!) Link to Denis Barkats' "Fata Morgana" mirage photo, and here's a large panorama. Another related photo, and another.
You're digging the live Antarctiblogging? Here are more blogs maintained by researchers in Antarctica: Cynthia, Brian Keating, Cameron Martindell , Neal Sheibe ,
Previously on BoingBoing:
– Another Antarctiblog: PhilJacobsen.com
– Job ad du jour: Raytheon needs writers in Antarctica