Mermaid Sightings & Speculations
Not everything is a mermaid that dives into the water. — Old Russian proverb
Disney World's television series, Animal Planet, filmed a shoot about mermaids in 2012 and placed a fake one off the coast of Israel. To increase attention, they offered a $1,000,000 reward for anyone who could prove the mermaid was real. When people started getting close, she disappeared into the ocean, never to be seen again. Naturally, this little trick increased the show's viewers exponentially.
Although the US government's National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claims that the existence of aquatic humanoids has never been proven, which may be true, the show raised issues that make viewers wonder if mermaids could really exist after all. Relevant speculations included:
If mermaids do not exist, why are there so many detailed stories about them that have been passed down from ancient times?
Where did the many mermaid cave drawings come from, if mermaids have never existed?
How can we say for sure there are no mermaids, when scientists know hardly anything about what lives in the ocean? Only 5% of the ocean floor has been explored so far, according to the NOAA.
What is a Mermaid?
Descriptions of mermaids are not uniform . . . which means that no one has got a good look at them lately. In the past they've been described as having upper bodies like human females, and lower bodies like a fish or dolphin - but they've also been described as having legs, not tails. Some mermaids are ugly, with stringy hair and sharp teeth for eating raw fish. Others have long, silky hair that hides their bodies as they lounge on rocky islands in the middle of the sea.
Some sing with the wind and lure sailors to their deaths. Some emerge onto isolated, rocky shores at night and hang with humans, then slip back into the ocean during the day. Some are depicted as playing with or riding dolphins, like the ocean's equivalent of horseback riding.
There are stories, also, of mer-men and mer-children, which means they have mer-families, which means they reproduce, which makes them a real species.
Real Mermaid Sightings
There have been many reported mermaid sightings throughout the years, although our scientific community doesn't take them seriously. During the times of the following statements, there were no digital cameras to photograph with and no Internet to spread the news before someone's government, scientific community, or church squelched it.There were only word of mouth and journals, in which explorers like Christopher Columbus reported. Few of the journals had drawings that showed what the mermaids looked like, so they were easy to debunk.
"Nonexistent" Giant Squid
Blackbeard the Pirate
Scientists say there is no such thing as mermaids, but not too long ago they poo-pooed the idea of giant squids too. Then someone found one bigger than a car caught in a fishing net. Since then, other dead ones have been found. Now scientists can't wait to get to the deep sea to find one alive.
The closest scientists have found to mermaids (that they know of) are dugongs, manatees and, of course, dolphins, with whom mermaids are said to have played. However, just in the last 20 years two new species of whale have been discovered, so who's to say what else is out there?
Here is a brief list of reported sightings during the last 300 years:
Early 1700's - Blackbeard the Pirate wrote in his logbook several times that he had seen mer-folk, and told his crew to avoid the area where they were.
1810 - A pair of mer-children were found near the Isle of Man. One was dead, the other injured and crying. A local fisher couple took her in until she could survive by herself.
1870-1890 - Seamen reported several sightings near Victoria and Vancouver BC.
1943 - A Japanese sergeant, Taro Horiba, got word of mermaids being caught in local fishing nets. When he was shown a dead one, himself, he tried to get the interest of Japanese scientists, who didn't believe him.
1967 - Passengers on the British Columbia ferry claimed they saw a mermaid eating salmon at the entrance to Active Pass near Victoria, Canada.
2002 - Early in the year, workers on a reservoir in Zimbabwe stopped work for a month, saying they were being harassed by mermaids. The local minister claims that people were disappearing or being chased away. The incident made it to the news.
There have been deceptions, as well, and some of the above may eventually be proven to be the same, e.g. the mermaid off the coast of Israel connected to the Animal Planet's special, "Mermaids: The Body Found" and the infamous Fiji Mermaid.
"The deep ocean holds many mysteries that researchers have only just begun to recognize. New technologies and tools have allowed scientists to explore areas of the deep ocean never before accessed, and they have found hundreds of new species and even new ecosystems. Yet, much of the world’s oceans remain unexplored." - NOAA website
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Mermaid Science & Speculation
Although scientists as a class do not believe that mermaids exist, are they doing anything to prove or disprove it? If mermaids don't exist, why is belief in them so persistent? Here are four possible theories that could be better explored:
1- Mer-folk Exist
Scientists require visual clues for "proof" of the existence of a thing, including body parts or bones, and haven't seen any that they recognize as such . . . yet.
What if mer-folk were intelligent and loving beings, as we like to see ourselves, with private burial grounds for their bones deep under the ocean?
What if they hide from things and beings that threaten them, rather than attacking (unlike us)?
There are stories, also, of mer-men and mer-children, which means they have mer-families, which means they reproduce, which makes them a real species. - Author
What if they're worried about being taken over by human overpopulation and so have isolated themselves, or perhaps we've already pushed them out of their normal habitats?
What if they have pride and are avoiding us killing or capturing them for display, like we do other ocean life?
What if they're responding to the pollution we've been pouring into their ocean homes by staying as far away from us as possible, so they can control their living environments?
What if they're trying to avoid the same annihilation that's happening to whales and dolphins due to the Navy's submarine sonar "exercises"?
All of these are hugely valid reasons for mer-folk to disappear from human view. And there are still plenty of places for them to go.
2 - Mer-Folk Are Our Evolutionary Ancestors
There are archeological signs that humans may have once been aquatic creatures. Humans are basically hairless, as are sea creatures, and move easily in water. Human babies take to water like fish, even before they can walk. The subcutaneous fat of female humans and babies matches the fat of dolphins and whales, and their intelligence matches as well. Vestigial evidence of aquatic origins even shows up in the human body, on occasion.
Mermaid Girl (last of a three part series)
The video on the right shows a young girl who was born with legs fused together (sirenomelia), looking almost like a fishtail. This happens in approximately one out of every 100,000 live births. She lived to be 10 years old, before dying of pneumonia. The emotional underpinnings of pneumonia, according to the work of author and healer Louise Hay, are feelings of desperation and being tired of life. This little girl found her greatest freedom in the family swimming pool, yet she was being groomed to live on land - an impossible feat for someone with her body shape.
What if our real ancestors were mer-folk, rather than apes as popular scientific theory would have it? Beneficial mutations could have created two lines of descendants that then became separate species over time: Land humans and water dolphins (with their subsequent breakouts).
Mer-folk seem part human, after all - intelligent and better adapted to the elements than we are. They knew all the plants and denizens of the deep and of the coastlines. They were healers and artistans, making beautiful decorations out of shells, seaweed, and jewels for their hair and, most likely, their homes in caves under the sea. These details are included in stories we hear from all over the world.
One genetic study concluded that clicks, which occur in the languages of the genetically divergent populations Hadza and !Kung, may be an ancient element of human language, dating back more than 35,000 years.
Source: Oxford Journal
Dolphins, like humans and mermaids, are highly intelligent. They have been known for centuries to interact with both mer-folk and human folk. Some of the oldest cave drawings of mermaids and dolphins in the world are found in South Africa, in the mountains near Oudtshoorn. The paintings are over 30,000 years old.
One of the oldest civilizations known on earth, the San people (Bushmen) of Southern Africa, have a language that sounds much like dolphin clicks. And those tribes with the greatest number of clicks are the ones that live closest to the ocean. Could dolphins and humans have once had a common language, way back in history?
As humans evolved and reproduced, could the two humanoids have lived side by side for awhile - one in water, the other on land - interacting and helping each other when needed? (Mermaids used to reward humans who helped them by giving back some of the bounty found in shipwrecks, legend says.) Eventually mer-folk could have died out, while human folk thrived, passing down stories through subsequent generations about the ways things used to be.
Ama Pearl Divers
- Haenyo divers brave the dangers of the deep | Toronto Star
With younger generations seeking modern careers, this ancient fishing tradition has been left to women up to 70 years old, and faces a tough future as tourism encroaches.
- Divers at the end of the world | Blog de Viajes Don't be Guiri
Travel tips to visit Argentina and many other places. Description of Yamana divers.
3 - Mermaids Are Really Humans
All over the world there have been coastal groups of people that had breath-holding divers gathering food from the ocean. Most of these divers were women. Most of them worked without clothes, since clothes hampered swimming and took a long time to dry in the open air. In frigid waters, like those around Scotland and Ireland, and in South America off the coast of Tierra del Fuego, increased subcutaneous fat in women's bodies protected them from the cold.
These female divers took baskets down to the ocean floor to gather food and could hold their breaths for up to five minutes at a time. It's said that their breath holding abilities gave them powerful voices, like opera singers, which may be where the stories about Sirens came from.
In the old days the majority of food for a coastal population was provided by these women, especially before agricultural times. Even now, after 2,000 years, there are women still carrying out these duties in areas around Korea and Japan (e.g. Haenyo food gatherers and Ama pearl divers).These days they wear clothes to protect themselves from gawking tourists.
4 - Mermaids Are A Fun Fantasy
Scientific speculation about mermaids holds that they are a fantasy, alongside fairies and leprechauns. It says that sightings recorded by Christopher Columbus in the early 1600's were really sea cows or manatees.
Archeologists do acknowledge that stone tools dating 100,000 years ago have been found on Greek islands, which means that some sort of human must have been able to swim long distances in the ocean or they had boats that far back.
Meanwhile, the Weeki Watchi Springs State Park north of Tampa, Florida has an imaginative show with live mermaids (in costume) that visitors can watch. When children ask if the mermaids are real, the show's manager says yes. He equates it with saying that Santa Claus is real . . . only in this case we really don't know.
Mermaids . . . "are legendary sea creatures chronicled in maritime cultures since time immemorial."- NOAA post on website.
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