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Jul 04 2012

Word is, no mermaids

While most of the nation was celebrating this week, NOAA released an official statement: there is no evidence for living aquatic humanoids:

(NOAA) Mermaids — those half-human, half-fish sirens of the sea — are legendary sea creatures chronicled in maritime cultures since time immemorial. The ancient Greek epic poet Homer wrote of them in The Odyssey. In the ancient Far East, mermaids were the wives of powerful sea-dragons, and served as trusted messengers between their spouses and the emperors on land. The aboriginal people of Australia call mermaids yawkyawks– a name that may refer to their mesmerizing songs.

The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans  gained dominion over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas. Half-human creatures, called chimeras, also abound in mythology — in addition to mermaids, there were wise centaurs, wild satyrs, and frightful minotaurs, to name but a few. But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.

It’s not completely clear why NOAA did this. Some articles have suggested a recent documentary on the legend was mistaken by some viewers for a documentary on the extant creatures. As far as I can see it’s harmless, the information is completely valid, and there might good scientific intentions behind it. Which is to say mermaids clearly do not have a billionaire patron or play a part in other, better defended fables.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    Stacy

    I’ve heard it was a mockumentary that pretended to take the legend seriously. According to the show, mermaids are real and evidence of their existence has been hidden from the public.

    Evidently some people believed it.

  2. 2
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    As if I’d believe that. It’s a government cover up! They know where the lost city of Atlanta is!!

    /snark

  3. 3
    jamessweet

    As I pointed out over at B&W, there is good reason to suspect that NOAA was looking for some free press, and decided to cash in on the silly mermaid mockumentary. “Hey, mermaids live in oceans.. and we study oceans… ka-CHING!”

    The tip-off for this is that, in speaking to the BBC, a spokesperson for NOAA said that they felt the need to make the statement after “at least two people” inquired with the agency about the possible existence of mermaids. ZOMG it’s an epidemic!

  4. 4
    RealityBasedSteve

    Worst thing, at least one right wing nutcase site I visit had a lot of people asking “and just how much of our tax dollars were spent on this?”. A fair number of them seemed to believe that NOAA actually did research, spent money, invested resources on what was basically a press release.

    I can only spend a limited amount of time there each day, the burn is too intense otherwise.

    Steve

  5. 5
    Trebuchet

    It’s definitely a reaction to the despicable fake documentary shown on Animal Planet. They had actors pretending to be government researchers and, at the end, directed viewers to a website which displayed a fake notice that the site had been ordered removed by Homeland Security. There was never the slightest acknowledgement that it was fiction. Discovery Communications, other than Mythbusters, sucks.

  6. 6
    jnorris

    Good good good, this means we do not have to plan against an attack by hoards of mermaid zombies.

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