Southampton resident David Sagman, a birdwatcher, spotted a dense black cloud with no obvious source over the Atlantic Ocean Thursday and sent the photos to Southampton Patch to help identify the source.
A number of Patch readers offered their explanations for what Sagman had photographed. Theories ranged from dust on the lens, a UFO — to a weather manipulation machine.
The most popular explanation was that it was an optical illusion caused by a ship past the horizon.
Karin Strong said, "It is a mirage of a ship just over the edge of our horizon. It is an image that is caught by the air layer over the ocean and reflected off the top of that air layer, like a mirror. Think mirages in the desert when a thirsty person will see water when it is really a dark area in the ground that he can't see yet."
Bruno Schreck said, "It's a 'mirage' of a fishing boat or small ship. You can see this any time of the year, when there is a gradation of temperature near the surface. One of my favorite morning activities is breakfast at EH Main Beach, where I can see this (when conditions are right) through my trusty 10x50 Nikon binoculars."
stovepipe40 said, "Yes, I believe this is a certain type of mirage called the "Fata Morgana"
Allen Seltzer said, "What I believe your images show is the smoke rising from the stacks of a distant ship. Owing to the Earth's curvature, a ship approaching the horizon appears to "sink" below the horizon. The distance of the sea or true horizon is dependent on your height. If you are six feet tall, your eyes are about five and one half feet above the beach. Your horizon is about three miles away. If the ship is much farther than that distance, you will not be able to see it. However, because the smoke rises considerably higher than the ship is tall, the smoke appears to be coming from the horizon. In your images, there appear to be three distinct dark clouds, perhaps smoke for each of ship's three stacks. That's my two cents. Hope it helps."
Capt. Mike said, "Simply a big ship partly over the horizon, probably a car carrier. Mirage effect makes it seem disconnected, or hovering. Not smoke, not a cloud, not the Mother Ship from Mars."
John D'Angelo said, "A few years ago, I saw a similar cloud effect and it was moving in different directions, it wasn't a cloud because it was moving against the wind at times. I got out my binoculars and discovered it was a navy helicopter that was towing a sonar listening device through the water. It was doing an antisubmarine search, perhaps as part of a naval maneuver. In any case, the chopper was so far out that you could not hear it, but the rising spray casued the cloud effect. Your sighting could have been the same thing."
Eastend50 said, "I saw the same thing over the ocean a year or so back. What I suspect it is, is exhaust trails from 3 separate rocket motors. Due to the curvature of the earth, the "cloud" looks like it is on the horizion, when in reality it's many, many miles out and high off the surface of the ocean. Probably military in origin."
PetrolMan said, "That is a the report and smoke from a HAARP weather manipulation pod which will work in tandem with chemtrails to cause whatever weather calamity is next on the horizon. Look up HAARP weather manipulation and don't say I never gave you anything."
Chris Gaynor said, "That's an offshore Dragger with dirty injectors starting a tow. Probably the FV Patriot, with his 3508 ramping up to 1800 rpm. The boat won't be seen due to the curvature of the earth."
allen tiska said, "That's a large ship just over the horizon, distorted by the atmosphere. If you looked from the hills of Noyack you'd see it more clearly."
Philip A Keith said, "Most likely a large ocean going merchant or military vessel 'blowing stacks;' i.e., pumping too much oil into the burners. This can be done by accident or sometimes on purpose to calibrate the boilers (or produce a smokescreen for some reason, like a naval exercise). Sorry, conspiracy theorists..."
Tom Mulrooney said, "It was probably a ship of some sort. What happens is at the horizon an object seems to be seperated from the horizon line giving the impression of it being skyward. The water being choppy and moving aids in the illusion. If you were to go to the Shinnecock Canal and with a standard binocular look east you will see land that appears to be floating over the water."
Sunny123 joked, "Anyone can see it's the sails of a pirate ship. The Black Pearl most likely."