Legends about mermaids go back thousands of years. From the Netherlands to South Africa, here are ten famous mermaid sightings from around the world.
`British Columbia, 1967 In 1967, British Columbia became a hub of mermaid excitement when, one day, Ferry riders spotted a mermaid lounging on the shore of Mayne Island. They claimed they saw a topless, blonde woman with the tail of a porpoise sitting on the beach shore. Some witnesses even became very upset, as they believed they saw the mermaid eating a raw salmon. One tourist from Iowa even managed to take a picture. After the sighting, the mermaid was seen one more time the following week. As the locals got swept up by the spotting of this mysterious mermaid, the town locals began to seek any information relating to her. The town newspaper, The Colonist, put up a $25,000 reward for the mermaid. Arrangements were even made for the mermaid to have room and board once she was found and successfully acclimated into the town setting. Although many believe that the whole thing was a charade, many still believe that what they saw was real.
#2. Scotland, 1830
Scotland, 1830 Mermaids are a part of Scotland’s countless mysteries and legends. It’s not surprising, then, that there would be many accounts of mermaid sightings. In 1830, the people of the island of Benbecula saw a mermaid. While cutting seaweed near the shore one day, a woman reportedly saw a miniature woman swimming in the water. Surprised by her discovery, she called many people over to view the water dweller. Some men rushed at her in the water, either to catch her or get a closer look, and the woman swam out of reach. Some boys threw stones at the frightened mermaid and one struck her in the back. A few days later, the corpse of the mermaid supposedly washed up on the shore. Like many of the other claims of mermaids, this one was small, with pale white skin and had the tail of a fish without scales. After the discovery, the sheriff of the town thought it only fitting that the mermaid have a proper burial. Someone constructed a coffin and the mermaid, wrapped in a shroud, was laid to rest above the shoreline where she was found. To this day, no one knows exactly where the mermaid was buried as no marker was left to denote the spot.
#3. West Indies, 1614 John Smith
West Indies, 1614 John Smith, the same John Smith from Pocahontas, reported that he saw a mermaid off the coast of West Indies in 1614. According to the story, Smith saw a woman swimming parallel to the shore. He was captivated by the grace in which she moved and noted that she had ears that were too long, a nose that was too short, eyes that were too round, and green hair. He also noted that the woman was a little attractive from the waist up. From the waist down, however, she was all fish. Some doubt has been thrown on the veracity of the tale of course, otherwise where would the mystery be. One source claims he wasn’t in the West Indies but in Newfoundland. Another historian says Smith wasn’t in the West Indies in 1614, though he was there in 1607. Potato patato in this case. The same historian suggested that Alexandre Dumas fabricated the tale to give credence to his own mermaid story about a Frenchman searching for a Dutchman who had four children with a mermaid.
#4. Norway, 1608
Norway, 1608 In 1608, Henry Hudson explored the cold northern waters off Norway. Written in his journal, he describes a day when he encountered a group of mermaids. Hudson claimed a mermaid appeared in the water, saw his crew and called up more of her mermaid sisters. He described the women as being as big as the men in his crew, with very white skin and long dark hair. He claimed their tails looked like a dolphin’s but were spotted like a mackerel. Hudson was thrilled that he had discovered mermaids. What makes this case so strange is that it occurred in the Bering Sea. Most mermaid sightings are discounted as sailors mistaking animals, often manatees, as mermaids. However, no manatees swim the waters of the Bering Sea. Naturalist Philip Henry Gosse, in his mid-1800s work The Romance of Natural History, believes it to be impossible that Hudson mistook an animal for this mermaid. He believes seasoned sailors such as Hudson would be able to identify animals in that location easily. Gosse believes either Hudson made this entire story up or Hudson saw something truly unique to the realm of science. We may never know.
#5. Netherlands, 1430
Netherlands, 1430 According to legend, in the Netherlands in 1430, the dykes failed in Edam, West Friesland and the area flooded. Two girls took a little boat out to milk their cows. As they did so, they came upon a mermaid floundering in shallow water. They took the mermaid home, where they dressed and fed her. She never spoke but learned how to weave and spin. She tried to escape from the girls several times but she was always watched carefully. After living on land for fifteen years, legend goes that she died and, because she learned to kneel before a crucifix was buried in the local churchyard. The story, though, doesn’t explain how a creature with a fish’s tail was able to kneel at all or even survive on land. But it makes for a good story.
Indonesia, 1943 In the midst of World War II, one of the most well-documented mermaid sightings occurred. Japanese soldiers set up a surveillance team on the Kei Islands of Indonesia. During the time there, several members of the team reported seeing a small humanoid figure in the water with spines on its neck and head and a mouth like a carp. The mermaid figure often played in lagoons and near the beach shores of the Kei Islands. Bewildered by what they saw, the soldiers spoke to the natives and learned that the mystical mermaid-like creature was actually a known entity called the orang ikan or “human fish.” As sightings continued, the indigenous people invited a sergeant with the group, Mr. Taro Horiba, to see what they had caught in their fishing nets. Upon arrival at the village, he entered the chieftain’s home to find one of these creatures splayed out on the floor. Horiba described a small body with red-brown hair, spines along the neck, and a humanoid face with a lipless, fish-like mouth full of needle sharp teeth. Mr. Horiba was confused and shocked by what he saw and urged zoologists to investigate after the war. However, no one believed any of his stories of mermaids in the Kei Islands.