Mark A. Hall: Did Sea Cows Fuel Mermaid Mythology?

Today we have a guest blogger Mark A. Hall* who contributes his thought in “Did sea cows fuel mermaid mythology?”

Virginia Smith of the Daytona Beach, Florida News-Journal has raised this issue and consulted experts who take an affirmative view.

Perhaps for Christopher Columbus they did. People back to Lt. Fletcher Bassett in 1885 have suggested that what Columbus saw in 1493 “were probably manatee or dugongs.”

The log of Captain John Smith, however, told a more detailed story that doesn’t describe a sirenian. His reported log entry in 1614 in the West Indies gives details not given in the newspaper story.

Smith entered this description of what he first took to be a woman swimming gracefully. She had “large eyes, rather too round, a finely shaped nose (a little too short), well formed ears, rather too long, and her long green hair imparted to her an original character by no means unattractive.” Only below the waist did she resemble a fish and that turned him off. He was not describing a manatee.

If he had seen Esther Williams wearing scuba gear he might have also been turned off. The folklore of mermaids tells that the fishy parts of the mermaid can be removed just like scuba gear. It appears that, when mermaids remove their swimming costumes, they can be not so unattractive all over.


Click here to view an interesting cartoon on this issue.

*Mark A. Hall is a well-known cryptozoologist who is the author of several books including his 2005 book Lizardmen and Thunderbirds: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds published in 2004.