Abstract

During the first ascent of the Matterhorn, a remarkable optical effect comprising three crosses surrounded by a great arch was observed by Edward Whymper, the British mountaineer. The authors review previous published explanations of the apparition. There are no photographs, only a woodcut and sketch, so the size of the apparition is not known, and it is not possible to make a definitive conclusion about what caused it. A fogbow and ice crystal arcs could have produced a circle and crosses in a direction consistent with the apparition. Some simulations are presented; one has a form approximating Whymper’s sketch. However, while this simulation used a crystal type that can occur, it required an unusual alignment that would be very rare.

© 2005 Optical Society of America

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