Phantom Ship

Ghostly ships play a role in Ulysses through allusions to the wildly fanciful tales of two musical versions of The Flying Dutchman, but they are also seen through the skeptical lens of Bloom's amateur science. Near the end of Nausicaa, as he lies looking out toward Howth with darkness coming on, a strange shape appears in the sky: "Were those nightclouds there all the time? Looks like a phantom ship. No. Wait. Trees are they? An optical illusion. Mirage." If the amorphous shape he is trying to make out in the evening sky is a ship, Bloom knows enough to explain the seemingly supernatural vision as a known scientific phenomenon.

JH 2021

2021 photograph of the superior mirage of an ocean tanker taken by David Morris near Falmouth, in Cornwall. Source: theguardian.com.

Graphic illustration of the forces involved in a superior mirage (with vertical scale exaggerated, and lower hull and rudder unrealistically included), made by HyperPhysics at Georgia State University. Source: theguardian.com.

"The Mirage," illustration on p. 277 of Frank Stockton's Round-about Rambles (1910). The image on the right is misleading, since superior mirages are never larger than the objects that produce them. Source: gutenberg.org.