The Beauty and the Beast


This photo was taken on March 03, 2020 in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately ten nautical miles north of Santa Cruz del Norte, Cuba.

The Beauty and the Beast

We were on our way from Varadero, Cuba to Havana, Cuba, a short 90 nautical miles over-night passage. After a rocky night the winds and the seas had calmed down and I was waiting for the sun to come up. The sky was crystal clear and it promised to be an amazing sunrise. The sunrise was due 06:48 UTC-5 and by 06:20 I had all my camera gear in position.

The Beast

Industrial Complex in Santa Cruz del Norte, Cuba

Then I realized this cloud formation that at first I reckoned to be a tornado. But it was not the weather for a tornado, not at all. So I took a closer look with my binoculars. In the distance and almost completely swallowed up by the haze there were chimneys spitting out huge amounts of smoke. I remembered that we were close to Santa Cruz del Norte, a huge industrial complex, once designed to be a socialist model town.

We were headed west in the southwest of an anticyclone that had passed a few days earlier and was now moving further northeast. In the wake of that high-pressure area, the wind was shifting from northeast to southeast. This is the surface wind to be precise. As you can see, as the smoke ascends, the wind carries it northwest, whereas further up, where the wind is still blowing from the northeast, the smoke is then carried southwest producing a feathered frame for my sunrise.

The Beauty

The Sun Rising over the Gulf of Mexico