What began as a fishing trip on Lake Michigan morphed into an eerie experience for Andrew Ballard and his dad, Spencer.
As they drifted on Platte Bay in northern Michigan, they were engulfed by a tremendous fog bank, a lazy cloud that crept up on their boat and enshrouded it in what appeared to be sea smoke.
Ballard, 24, recorded the tumbling fog bank on video Wednesday and posted it to YouTube, where it quickly went viral.
“We saw these low-lying clouds about 20 miles off in the distance,” said Ballard, a resident of Waterford Township who is working toward a Ph.D in administration and policy at Rutgers University.
“They crept up on our boat and then we could see that it was a cloud that was really close to the water. We thought about pulling in our lines and heading to shore but we were curious, so we decided to see what it would be like inside.”
In the video, the cloud bank looks like a slowly moving avalanche of snow dressed in shades of light gray and brilliant white beneath a sunny sky.
It was a different story inside the fog bank.
“The wind was about 20 mph, the waves got bigger and the temperature really dropped,” Ballard said. “Visibility dropped to about 30 feet, and you lost direction.”
According to the National Weather Service, what the Ballards experienced is known as advection fog.
“The fog develops when warm moist air moves over really cold lake water,” meteorologist Deb Elliott said. “Fog develops as the air is cooled and is then moved along by wind. It can very thick and extensive; if they were swallowed up in it, their visibility could drop to almost zero.”
According to Ballard, the clouds would part periodically within the fog bank.
“There would be a clearing and rainbows,” Ballard said. “Then the fog would close in again. We didn’t know where we were so we had to use GPS to find our way back to shore.”