Skinny Guardian

8 December 2020, 06:00 (UTC), 209 words. Paul Brown.

Weatherwatch: the town in the sky off the coast of Hastings

The 2020 film Summerland, written and directed by Jessica Swale, tells the story of an evacuated child who looks out from the cliffs for images of strange lands in the sky to connect with his dead father. The scene triggered a hunt in the filing cabinet for a letter sent in years ago with a drawing of a town seen out to sea from a house in Guestling, Hastings, roughly the same location the film was set.

John Heys, a retired teacher, 88, included a drawing of a mirage he had seen on 21 August 2011 that featured several buildings and a tall chimney. The town seemed to be floating above the sea a mile from the coast, an estimate he made because a small boat was sailing through the mirage. He suggested the town was Le Touquet, the French holiday resort more than 40 miles away.

This rare phenomenon is a kind of mirage known as Fata Morgana, seen more commonly in calm seas in the Strait of Messina, off Sicily, where layers of warm and cold air can create castles in the air. Hastings has recorded another such sighting. In the 18th century, an image of a city just out to sea persisted all day.