Mermaids? Mermaids? “Say it ain’t so Joe!” I know I hear you, but wait, just stay with me. It is true, I am very methodical, and grounded in logic, particularly when it comes to science and history (my belief in a Supreme Being not withstanding). I follow the data, collect the evidence, and analyze the results. I take an all-inclusive approach to what I find. I don’t like data that seems to not fit. My research into the wreckage on the ocean floor of the RMS Titanic is an example of this attitude at work. I know all the evidence does fit, and it tells a unique story. If there is something that does not seem to fit in the story, something we cannot support with science and an all-inclusive explanation, then we are telling the story wrong. One phrase I never use is, “Yeah, well that must have happened when … .” There are no “must have’s.” All the answers are in the evidence. But, mermaids? Mermaids? Yes mermaids.
No, not Disney’s Ariel, not that kind of mermaid. My daughter loves Ariel. Once when she was six, and talking about mermaids to me, she suddenly said, “I know mermaids are not real daddy, but I wish they were.” Then she went right back to talking about mermaids. But, I am not talking about fictional mermaids. I am talking about real, flesh, and blood mermaids. Not exactly the type of topic we usually discuss. I mean mermaids are just myth or legend – right? Sure, in Weeki Wachee Aquatic State Park in Florida, they have mermaids, but they are women in suits.
No suits, no cartoons, no fiction I am talking about real mermaids; living, breathing, swimming mermaids.
The oldest stories of mermaids come from Assyria, more than 3,000 years ago. In ancient Greece, they were called sirens. From around the world, in every culture, we have mermaid folklore. Stories passed down through history telling us of sightings and interaction between people and mermaids. Even Columbus on his voyage to the New World, wrote in his logs of sighting mermaids in the New World. Edward Teach, the famed and feared pirate Blackbeard, believed in mermaids and ordered his men to steer his ships clear of waters where he believed they lived. From Australia to Arabia, Africa to Russia, Asia to Scandinavia, North America to South America there are stories of mermaids; it is a worldwide phenomena. So, what do scientists have to say about mermaids?
The scientists tell us that mermaids are the myths of sailors. Scientist say the sailors have mistaken manatees or dugongs for mermaids. I grew up on the St. Johns River, swimming and fishing within its waters, one of the seasonal homes of the manatee. I learned as a small boy, if you are still and do not chase them, manatee will come right up to you. Manatees are a gentle and curious giant, but one that could never be mistaken for a woman as you can tell by the photographs.
P. T. Barnum exhibited what he called the Fiji mermaid. Later, the Fiji mermaid proved to be a fake made possible by taxidermy, half monkey and half fish. Barnum’s Fiji mermaid was lost when his museum burned down in the 1860’s. Dr. J. Griffin supposedly caught Barnum’s mermaid in 1842, and it went on display in Barnum’s museum in June 1842.
Though Barnum’s mermaid was lost in the 1860’s fire, there are “fake Fiji mermaid fakes” that can still be seen. Each one is supposedly the original Barnum Fiji mermaid. I saw one at the Ripley Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. Other Barnum mermaids are at other curiosity museums and sideshows around the world. The Indian Trading Post in Banff Alberta has the Banff merman, which was created by the same method.
Other fakes include photographs that showed up on the internet after the 2004 tsunami. Supposedly, these mermaids washed up on the shore after the tsunami, these were made in the same manner as the Fiji mermaid fake. In August 2009, mermaids were supposedly sighted and filmed off the coast of Kiryat Yam, Israel. The city offered a million dollar reward to anyone proving the existence of mermaids, the city still has its million dollars. In 2012, work on a reservoir in Zimbabwe stopped when the workers claimed they were chased away by mermaids. The best was yet to come, and not once but twice.
The cable channel Animal Planet aired a special in May 2012, call “Mermaids: The Body Found.” It was a television docufiction. Written and filmed like a documentary it was pure fiction. They even had actors playing scientists with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the United States government). The response was so great, that two months later NOAA was forced to release a statement saying that no evidence has ever been found of mermaids.
In May 2013, Animal Planet was back with a sequel, “Mermaids: The New Evidence.” Once again, NOAA was forced to release a statement denying the existence of mermaids, and this time including a statement pointing out that the person identified as a NOAA scientist is actually an actor and no scientist by that name had ever worked for NOAA.
So, here we are, no evidence (fossils or bodies) has ever been found to support the idea that mermaids do now or have ever existed. Every photograph and film of a mermaid has proved to be a fake, and even the “actual” mermaids who have been put on display have proved to be fakes. Scientists say the sincere reported sightings, are people mistaking manatees and dugongs for mermaids. If that were not enough, my six year old daughter (almost nine now) knows mermaids are not real. With all the writing projects in my “in box,” why have I taken two weeks of my time to investigate mermaids? Like I said, if all the evidence does not fit the conclusion, then we have the wrong conclusion.
Mermaids are not manatees or dugongs. What mermaids are is … oops, we are out of time. We will finish this next week.
Have a great week and see you next Sunday for the conclusion of our mermaid series.