Thursday, May 24, 2012

MMM Sunsets

I have a slight obsession with sunsets. And a slight obsession with the lake. What a perfect combination for this trip, eh?! I was able to get out on the lake last night with my buddy Andrew for a great sunset paddle. We started paddling in the early evening fog, took a midpoint trek up one of the largest sand dunes on the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan, and enjoyed sharing stories until it was almost time for sunset. After getting back in the canoe we paddled out a little ways and let ourselves drift as we enjoyed the setting sun.

Soon we saw the horizon line changing and the skyline of Chicago growing, shifting, flipping…it was quickly becoming a beautiful and confusing trick on our minds. We have both seen these strange upside down cities form on the horizon on hot summer days, but neither of us could explain what was actually going on. We just stared, wondered, admired. I decided that I would find out what was actually going on (nerd alert). So, thank you Wikipedia.

“A mirage is a naturally occurring optical phenomenon in which light rays are bent to produce a displaced image of distant objects or the sky. The word comes to English via the French mirage, from the Latin mirare, meaning "to look at, to wonder at.” This is the same root as for "mirror" and "to admire.”

A Fata Morgana is an unusual and complex form of superior mirage that is seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. It is an Italian phrase derived from the vulgar Latin term for "fairy" and King Arthur’s sorceress Morgan le Fay, from a belief that these mirages, often seen in the Strait of Messina, were fairy castles in the air or false land created by her witchcraft to lure sailors to their death.

Fata Morgana mirages distort the object or objects which they are based on significantly, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable. The mirage comprises several inverted and erect images that are stacked on top of one another. Fata Morgana mirages also show alternating compressed and stretched zones. This optical phenomenon occurs because rays of light are bent when they pass through air layers of different temperatures in a steep thermal inversion (A thermal inversion is an atmospheric condition where warmer air exists in a well-defined layer above a layer of significantly cooler air. This temperature inversion is the opposite of what is normally the case; air is usually warmer close to the surface, and cooler higher up.)”

Ahh, so that was what we were looking at... The cool fog over the still very cold water had interacted perfectly with the hot air that has moved into our area recently. Upside down cities and deceptions of your mind are not always so easily explained!

This unusual sunset got me thinking about all the sunsets we will be seeing on our trip. All along we’ve been excited about this aspect – we’re going clockwise if for no other reason than the knowledge that the tiring second half of our trip will be satisfyingly full of sunsets over Lake Michigan each night. (Don’t worry, this isn’t the only reason we’re going clockwise, but I’ve got to admit it was a large factor!) I wonder how many more upside down cities we will see? Let’s say we’re gone for 2 months – that’s around 60 sunsets! What if we’re gone for closer to 3 months? 90 sunsets! Now that’s just crazy talk. There will indeed be a lot to look at, wonder at, and admire on this adventure.

No comments:

Post a Comment