This section is from "The American Cyclopaedia", by George Ripley And Charles A. Dana. Also available from Amazon: The New American Cyclopędia. 16 volumes complete..
Fata Morgana, Or Castles Of The Fairy Morgana, a mirage occasionally seen from eminences on the Calabrian shore, looking westward upon the strait of Messina. It occurs in still mornings, when the waters are unruffled by breeze or current, and the sun, rising above the mountains of Calabria, strikes down upon the smooth surface at an angle of 45°. The heat then acts rapidly upon the stagnant air, the strata of which but slowly intermingling present a series of mirrors which variously reflect the objects upon the surface. The tides must have operated to raise the surface into a convex form, as sometimes occurs at this locality. Objects on the Sicilian shore opposite, beneath the dark background of the mountains of Messina, are refracted and reflected upon the water in mid channel, presenting enlarged and duplicated images. Gigantic figures of men and horses move over the picture, as similar images in miniature arc seen flitting across the white sheet of the camera obscura. Sometimes the sky above the water is so impregnated with vapor that it surrounds these objects with a colored hue. The wonderful ex-hibition is but of short duration.
The phenomenon is not peculiar to this locality, though the configuration of the coast and the meteorological conditions of the region concur to render its exhibition more frequent and more beautiful here than elsewhere.