A mermaid is a creature from folklore and myths that are said to inhabit oceans around the world. Almost every culture has a legend that relates to a mermaid. In some cultures, mermaids are claimed to create floods, storms, shipwrecks, and drownings. Other legends say that they fall in love with humans.

The mermaid is described with the upper body of a beautiful woman and the lower body of a fish. The have long flowing hair and are said to lure sailors with their captivating voices.

The legend of the mermaid has been a part of human culture for centuries. Christopher Columbus reported seeing mermaids while exploring the Caribbean.

Mistaken identities account for some mermaid claims. Sirenia is an aquatic mammal that inhabit rivers, swamps, wetlands, and coastal marine waters. This animal was referred to as a mermaid by mariners pre-nineteenth century.

A rare birth disorder called Sirenomelia or mermaid syndrome, is where the lower limbs are fused together. This condition is highly fatal, the child usually dies within days due to kidney or bladder complications.

There have been many reported sightings of this mystical creature.

The first account of a mermaid was in 1000 BC in Greek mythology. The story tells of the Goddess Atargatis who was in love with a mortal man, but she accidentally killed him. She was so ashamed, she jumped in the lake and turned herself into a fish. However, she had such beauty, the water was unable to conceal it, so she became a mermaid.

In 1493 Columbus stated seeing three rising above the water. In the logbook of the English pirate Blackbeard, he instructed his crew to stay clear of the enchanted waters in fear of mermaids.

In 1943, Japanese soldiers reported seeing several mermaids on the Kei Islands. It was said they had pink skin and spikes on their heads. It was also reported that fishermen sometimes caught them in there nets.

In 2009 dozens of people claimed to see a mermaid leaping out of the water and doing tricks of the coast of Kiryat Yam, Israel. February 2012, in Zimbabwe, near Gokwe and Mutare, work on a reservoir was halted when workers refused to continue. They said they were being hounded by mermaids.

An artistic rendition of a mermaid appears above a stone pillar at the Norman chapel in the Durham Castle on the British Isles. In British folklore, mermaids are considered to be an unlucky omen that predict disaster and also cause it to happen.

In Eastern Europe some mermaids are known as rusalka but they lack a fish tail. They live deep in the water during the day and come to land at night luring men into the water and drowning them.

In 2012, and 2013, Animal Planet aired two docufictions about the existence of mermaids. The National Ocean Service stated that no evidence was found to prove aquatic humans exist. And that the scientist on the show was an actor and not a NOAA scientist.

In trying to prove of the mermaids existence, there have been many hoaxes. Including P.T. Barnum’s Fiji mermaid which was a display of a mermaid that was done by taxidermy and considered a hoax.

Many different variations of mermaids are featured in literature, film, and artistic renditions. A few notables are, Hans Christian Andersen’s  The Little Mermaid from 1836 which was remade by Disney into a animated musical.  Splash, a 1984 romantic comedy, and in the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Mermaids have also been symbolized in other ways. The city of Norfolk, Virginia uses a mermaid as its symbol. Warsaw’s coat of arms feature a mermaid.

Japanese divers called the Ama have been glorified as mermaids. They have been around for over 2,000 years, diving for seaweed and shellfish. Modern day, they are viewed as a tourist attraction.
At Florida’s Weeki Wachee  Springs a group of certified female divers perform aquatic ballets dress as mermaids.

Image Caption: Rendition of a Mermaid. Credit: John William Waterhouse/Wikipedia (public domain)