April 17, 2017 – On the morning of April 17, 2017 in Iroquois County a few miles south of the Kankakee county line I saw something that I have never witnessed before. On the horizon to the south and southwest there looked to be many buildings, a vast metropolis that looked like some mythical city or a wall stretching out across the landscape rising maybe 10 degrees off the horizon. There before me was the most distorted, stretched out inverted mess I have ever seen. Some barns had peaks that seemed to rise up higher than the barn was tall. One cupola looked so stretched out on the peak of the building that it seemed to be reaching upwards like a cathedral spire.
The normally flat prairie looked to have a long tall bluff with some rolling hills and a dense forest and some oddly shaped structures that made no sense. One could have perhaps imagined that this must have been what the edge of the ice sheet looked like thousands of years ago. What I was actually seeing was an optical phenomenon called a superior mirage or Fata Morgana mirage. This is a more rare type of the mirage phenomenon caused by a temperature inversion, warmer temperatures above cooler temperature with the light being refracted or bent as it passes through layers of varied air temperatures which causes a view of reflected distortions with the stretching of objects.
The Fata Morgana has a history in sailing lore with stories of ghost ships, uncharted land masses that don’t exist, phantom islands and floating cities. The haunted visions of early mariners and the sudden appearance of a city that is miles away coming into view and seen by hundreds are recorded events that inspire the imagination and I feel very lucky to have witnessed a superior mirage that held me spellbound for a time on that morning of the 17th.