Frills & Fancy ezine
Reports of Mermaid Sightings
To do a bit of research for making that mermaid to tease your pirate captain
First Century AD, Pliny the Elder writes about Nereids - women with rough scaly bodies like fish, a mythological precursor to mermaids.
Fifth Century AD, Physiologus in his Bestiary describes the real mermaid with the upper body of a woman and the lower of a fish, split at about the navel. The book is a study of animals and their natures and remains influential until the 18th century.
13th Century, Bartholomew Angelicus in his book De Propietatibus Rerum described the mermaid as a femme fatale stealing sailors from their ships. Click here for more on the medieval mermaid.
1493, January 4, Christopher Columbus reports seeing three mermaids playing about and jumping out of the water. He says, "They were not as beautiful as they are painted, although to some extent they have a human appearance in the face...."
1560, Bosquez, aide to the Viceroy of Goa, performed autopsies on 7 mermaids caught by fishermen in Ceylon.
1599, in the book Historia Monstrorum a mermaid and her mate are reported embracing near the Nile River delta.
1608, June 15, Henry Hudson, explorer and discoverer of the Hudson River, records seeing a mermaid near Russia. He wrote in his log: Two crew members - Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayner - sighted a mermaid at 75° 7' N, and shouted at the rest of the crew to come and look. Hudson further recorded it as having a "tail of a porpoise and speckled like a mackerel." She was "looking earnestly on the men" who gathered on the side to see her. The description Hudson wrote says she had very white skin, "speckled like a macrell" (mackerel), long black hair, white skin and a woman's breasts - with the tail of a porpoise.
1614, John Smith sees a mermaid off the coast of Massachusetts
1718, a "sea wife" is caught off the island of Borneo and put in a large vat, where it died after a few days. It was heard to utter cries like a mouse.
1739, sailors of the ship Halifax caught and ate several mermaids in the East Indies. Said they tasted like veal.
1811, a farmer near Kintyre reported spotting a real mermaid washing herself and combing her hair.
1830, a farm woman in the Outer Hebrides spotted a mermaid frolicking in the water. They were unable to capture her alive but did manage to kill her with a rock. The corpse was seen and described in detail by Alexander Carmichael, a well-known scholar.
1842, Phineas T. Barnum displays the famous Feejee Mermaid at his American Museum on Broadway in New York City.
1857, June 4, a reliable (?) report of a real mermaid with "full breast, dark complexion and comely face" seen off the coast of Britain.
1947, Island of Muck, 80-year-old man reports seeing a real mermaid sitting on a lobster trap and combing her hair.
1971, Starbucks, with it's mermaid logo, opens it's first store in Seattle's Pike Place Market.
2004, wild internet reports of a mermaid corpse seen in Chennai, India, after the famous Christmas tsunami. Photographs were included, but research shows that the pictures had been circulating for some time before the tsunami.