Dutch explorer Willem Barents and his crew were traveling on the island of Novaya
Zemlya in the fall of 1597 when they were forced by thick arctic sea ice to spend the
winter there. The arctic night descended, when the northern continent is submerged in
darkness for weeks at a time. One noon in late January, the sun rose over the southern
horizon, two weeks early. What the travelers saw was the Novay Zemlya mirage, which
occurs when sunlight travels through a layer of extremely cold surface air. This band of
air bends light with the curvature of the earth, sometimes so far that the sun appears
to rise above the arctic horizon, bringing an early spring.