Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mermaid Sighting 1493

Are mermaids really manatee? There's the old joke about sailors being as sea so long without the touch or sight of a woman that they turn gay. Is it possible that they were so desperate for the sight of a woman that their addled minds conjured a manatee into a mermaid? Seems highly dubious to me.

On January 9, 1493, Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic,  saw three "mermaids"-- in reality manatees--and described them as "not half as beautiful as they are painted." Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, hoping to find a western trade route to Asia. Instead, his voyage, the first of four he would make, led him to the Americas, or "New World."

According to most scholars, what Columbus saw was likely manatee, dugongs or Steller's sea cows (which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting.) In fact, people back to Lt. Fletcher Bassett in 1885 have suggested that what Columbus saw in 1493 “were probably manatee or dugongs.”

Personally, I say a manatee in no way looks like a mermaid.

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way. A Manatee? I don't care how long you're at sea...it's really hard to see and swear by long flowing hair, breasts, etc. I'd like to think that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy."


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