On May 27, 2012, Discovery’s Animal Planet channel aired Mermaids: The Body Found. The documentary featured video of a mermaid sighting in the Greenland Sea and an exclusive interview with former NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) scientist Dr. Paul Robertson.
The show followed a scientific team’s investigative efforts to uncover the source behind mysterious underwater recordings. It opened with video footage of a mermaid perched on a rock. Later in the program, a webbed hand touches the observation window of a submersible craft manned by a team of deep sea divers. As the creature swims away, the divers catch glimpses of an alien-like face.
The program attracted the network’s biggest audience in its history: 1.9 million viewers.
A sequel broadcast, Mermaids: The New Evidence, aired May 26, 2013 and reached a record 3.6 million viewers. Its popularity drove the network to the number one slot in the key demographic among 25-to-54-year-olds. After the broadcast, over 1.5 million streams of mermaid-related video surfaced online.
But not all is as it seems.
Both documentaries are hoaxes. In the closing credits, disclaimers flash briefly claiming the programs are hoaxes. Actors played the part of scientists and all video was digitally manufactured. NOAA released the following statement on their website: “Mermaids: The New Evidence is just entertainment. No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.”
While some viewers were amused, many felt the network should have admitted the programs were speculative science fiction from the start. When confronted, Executive Producer Charlie Foley countered: “We wanted people to approach the story with a sense of possibility and a sense of wonder. Hopefully, that’s what Mermaids allowed viewers to do…allowed them to suspend their disbelief.”