In the early stages of conceiving Ocean’s Daughter we had many inquire as to why we selected mermaids as one of our primary areas of messaging. As a global organization cemented in strong scientific doctrine, many suggested that this choice seemed to be a massive juxtaposition. The mere notion of embracing a mythical creature when promoting ocean literacy sparked some controversy. To be honest, that anticipated line of inquiry was actually the intended purpose. It would require an entire dissertation to trace the historical “origins” and key myths surrounding mermaids. Perhaps that is a task for another time! However, it is relevant to highlight a few significant examples to explain our stance.
From Ancient Greece to Disney
Throughout the ages, mermaids have taken on contrasting roles. Some cultures such as those of Ancient Greece and Rome held sirens with extreme reverence. Multiple accounts exist within the literature that testifies to these creatures utilizing mesmerizing songs and hypnotic beauty to captivate men. This allure allegedly led to many a sailor’s death. The stories are contradicting in terms of intentions. Some believe sirens to have meticulously planned this outcome, while others suggest that mermaids failed to realize that the sailors could not breathe underwater. Some during this era believed that mermaids would literally suck the life out of humans. Other literary accounts such as The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson depict mermaids in a more innocent and curious light. As we all know, Disney heavily capitalized on this! Modern times brand mermaids as playful fantasy.
If one wanted to move away from mythology and fiction, there are a plethora of accounts rooted in a more historical realm. Pliny the Elder was a Roman scholar who described Nereids as “women with rough scaly bodies like fish” in Natural History. In a 5th Century AD book entitled Physiologus, a Greek unknown scholar dedicated a portion of the writing to portraying “The Nature of the Mermaid”. In 1493, Christopher Columbus recorded an encounter with three mermaids in his ship logs while sailing off the coast of the Dominican Republic. The widely accepted explanation is that Columbus actually mistook manatees for mermaids. In 1608, another explorer by the name of Henry Hudson also recorded an encounter with a mermaid in his ship’s journal while sailing through the Bering Sea off of the coast of Norway. In 1614, the infamous John Smith actually wrote about spotting a mermaid off of the coast of Massachusetts. Similar accounts are sprinkled throughout historical records by otherwise logical men. Yet despite these narratives, solid tangible evidence has consistently escaped scientists.
Ocean’s Daughter Conservation Alliance has a team of professional mermaids available for performances and appearance at schools, assemblies, private events, community festivals, zoos, aquariums, and animal sanctuaries!We specialize in both dry and wet work! Our lead mermaid is the reigning International Conservation Mermaid, and was also crowned the official Mermaid of Gasparilla in 2016!
Ancient Mesopotamian culture chronicles the existence of a merman by the name of Oannes. Legend claims he would rise from the depths of the Persian Gulf every morning and instill knowledge, reasoning, and wisdom to mankind. As a result of his efforts, humans were equipped with cognitive tools that led to scientific advancements such as agriculture, medicine, astrology, the construction of cities, and written language. While historians consider Oannes a mere myth, one cannot deny that the contributions from this ancient culture are authentic. The advancements were so beyond anything the world had previously known that Mesopotamia is hallmarked as the cradle of civilization. We are not suggesting that a mermaid should be credited with such contributions, but the symbolism there is appealing. Our mission at Ocean’s Daughter Conservation Alliance is to formulate practical conservation solutions that benefit both humanity and wildlife through an innovative blend of education and science. By serving as a global ambassador organization, we envision conducting groundbreaking research with the aspiration of deepening our comprehension of marine life. To accomplish this task, sophisticated levels of cognition are paramount. Therefore it was logical to adopt a symbol from a world long ago that embodies both knowledge and wisdom. Naturally, in Ocean’s Daughter tradition, we had to put on our own creative twist on it!!!!
Mermaids Through History
The purpose of this abbreviated lesson is to illustrate the numerous mermaid symbols across cultures and eras. At times, mermaids are labeled dangerous forces not to be reckoned with. They possess an inherent ferociousness that cannot be contained. At other times, mermaids represent extraordinary beauty with an almost supernatural charm. Other accounts leave readers with a sense of mystery. There is so much left unknown about these creatures. Here at Ocean’s Daughter Conservation Alliance, we do not adopt any particular stance on mermaids. Whether mermaid tails are authentic or mere tales are not for us to decide. Yet the parallels between their symbols and the characteristics of the oceans we are striving to protect are undeniable. In a way, mermaids are perfect metaphors for the various facets of the seas! So for that reason, why not mermaids?!?!
The Mermaid Tales (Blog)
Heather Blackall has a PhD in Biochemistry, and a Master's in Veterinary Medicine.