The Green Flash: Fact v. Fiction


[I]t will be 'green,' but a most wonderful green, a green which no artist could ever obtain on his palette, a green which neither the varied tints of vegetation nor the shades of the most limpid sea could ever produce the like! If there be green in Paradise, it cannot but be of this shade, which most surely is the true green of Hope!

-The Green Ray
by Jules Verne


With such a passage, novelist Jules Verne took an unknown sailor superstition and introduced it to the world. This green ray, often referred to as the green flash and sometimes Neptune's Wink, has since inspired a host of literature, artwork and travel lore. The green flash is a sightseeing treasure, only visible at the beach. Verne quotes an old Scottish legend that says anyone who sees the green flash just once will be incapable of being deceived in matters of the heart. For sailors the world over, green flash sightings signify good health and prosperity on their travels. The Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise combines various ship and land lore and surmises the green flash signals a soul returning from the land of the dead.


Cleaving Fact From Fiction

While Jules Verne and others might have taken their liberties with what the green flash represents, they did describe the event more or less accurately. The green flash can only be seen at the first moment of sunrise or the very last of sunset - when only the barest upper edge of the sun peeks out from the horizon. As its name suggests, it appears for only a few seconds before it disappears. Regardless of what lore you do or don't believe, it really is quite exciting to see, especially if you've been standing watch for it. In fact, it could be argued that its elusiveness, its ability to be missed frequently by even those individuals who know exactly what to look for, makes the sighting all the more valuable.

So what makes it? This is a scientific spoiler, so skip down to the next paragraph if you'd rather make up your own myths and focus on finding it. Scientifically, the green flash is an atmospheric event that occurs when the horizon is very flat (such as with the sea) and there is a favorable amount of moisture in the air. As the sun sets, its light becomes highly bent or refracted, separating the colors it normally absorbs so the very top edge appears briefly as a green (sometimes blue) flash.


Catching the Green Flash in Maui

Maui offers some of the best opportunities to catch sight of the green flash thanks to those long, flat distances between viewer and sun and the ideal amount of moisture in the air necessary for the atmospheric event. While the many beaches of Maui are great places to stand in wait of the sighting, why not capture it from the air with a sunset helicopter tour. Learn more and book your reservation with Maverick today.



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