Mermaid Hoaxes in 2012 and 2013

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.”



10 Interesting Facts About Splash

I like to compare the making of this film to the story of The Little Engine That Could.

When producer Brian Grazer pitched the film, he was repeatedly turned down. At the time, Warner Brothers had lined up Warren Beatty to play the star in another mermaid movie. To sweeten a prospective deal with Walt Disney Productions, director Ron Howard promised to film Splash quickly and cheaply.

Howard kept his promise and produced the film on an $8 million budget. Principal photography began on March 1, 1983 and was completed by June 30, 1983.

Splash grossed $6,174,059 in its opening weekend and finished its domestic run with $69,821,334, making it the tenth highest-grossing film of 1984.

As for the film starring Warren Beatty…it eventually fell through.


Here are 10 interesting facts about this popular film:

1. Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Richard Gere, Kevin Kline, Bill Murray, and John Travolta were considered for the lead role before the producers decided upon Tom Hanks.

2. Daryl Hannah was Producers’ Choice #11. Tatum O’Neal, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lynne Frederick, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Genie Francis, Melanie Griffith, Fiona Fullerton, Diane Lane, Kathleen Turner, and Sharon Stone turned down the part of Madison.

3. The beach where Tom Hanks first encounters the nude mermaid is on the former Gorda Cay in the Bahamas.

4. During childhood, Daryl Hannah swam “mermaid” style with her legs bound together.

5. The elaborately designed mermaid tail by Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Robert Short was fully functional, allowing Daryl to swim so fast her safety team could not keep pace with her.

6. The mermaid tail had to be glued onto Daryl before being hand painted, a detailed process that took eight hours. To avoid using the bathroom, Daryl ate and drank very little. She stayed in her water tank and accepted bits of food thrown by the cast and crew.

7. Unfortunately, the tail decomposed very quickly after the movie’s release. Despite its decomposed state, it was put on display in a glass showcase at Planet Hollywood in Orlando, Florida.

8. The name “Madison” rose in popularity soon after the release of Splash. In 1990, it was the 216th most popular name for girls. Five years later, it rose to #29 and by 2000 had become the third most popular female name in the United States.

9. Well received by critics, Splash earned a 92% “Fresh” rating from the website Rotten Tomatoes.

10. Over three decades later, Daryl is still recognized by fans (many of whom have been named after her character Madison) of the 1984 romantic comedy.

November is Manatee Awareness Month

Manatees are large marine mammals that inhabit shallow rivers, canals, saltwater bays, and coastal areas. A migratory species, they spend their winters in the Florida waters and move as far north as Massachusetts and as far west as Texas during the summers.


A bit of history

In his first journey to the Americas, Christopher Columbus caught glimpses of three sea creatures he first believed to be mermaids but had some doubts. He wrote in his journal: “…distinctly saw three mermaids which rose well out of the sea; but they are not so beautiful as they are said to be, for their faces had some masculine traits.”

Manatees must surface to breathe air. They are known to rise out of the sea like the alluring sirens of Greek mythology and often perform “tail stands” in shallow water. From a distance, they could be mistaken for humans. Their forelimbs contain five sets of finger-like bones, and their neck vertebrae allows them to turn their heads.

Interesting manatee facts

Manatees have a higher gray matter to white matter ratio in their brains than any other mammal known, including humans.

Primarily herbivores, manatees can consume fifteen to twenty percent of their body weight in vegetation daily.

While manatees can travel up to 20 miles per hour in short bursts, they usually travel three to five miles per hour. Along the coast, they travel in water that is 10 to 16 feet deep and they are rarely seen in areas over 20 feet deep.

Manatees are not sexually mature until they are about five years old. During breeding, a single female (cow) will be followed by a dozen or more males (bulls), forming a “mating herd.” The gestation period is about a year and mothers nurse their young for one to two years.

They have a lifespan of about 60 years with no known natural enemies. A certain percentage of manatee mortality can be attributed to natural causes such as cold stress, gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia, and other diseases.

Sources of danger

In the past, manatees were exploited for their meat, fat, and hides. But the most significant challenge faced today is the loss of habitat. Increased coastal development and poaching have significantly reduced the size of the manatee population. Experts believe that pollution in these areas may also have an effect on manatee mortality, as chemicals introduced into their habitats can lead to impaired immune systems.

A high number of manatee deaths result from collisions with boats when the mammals are surfacing for air. They are not fast enough to elude the boat propellers and suffer from fatal gashes. Other accidents include entanglement in crab trap lines and ingestion of fish hooks and litter.

Important dates for manatees

1893 – Florida is declared a manatee sanctuary and manatee hunting is illegal.

1907 – Law is revised to impose a fine of $500 and/or six months of jail time for molesting or killing a manatee.

1966 – The manatee became one of 78 original species listed in the Endangered Species Preservation Act.

1972 – The manatee was designated a marine mammal protected under the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. This act prevented the removal of any marine mammal and imposed a fine of up to $2000 and/or one year in jail.

1973 – The Endangered Species Preservation Act was revised to increase federal protection of manatees.

1976 – Sea World of Florida began a Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Program.

1978 – The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act amended the 1907 state law. Florida became an official refuge and sanctuary for the marine mammals. The regulation of boat speeds in areas of manatee inhabitation was now allowed.

1979 – Florida Governor Bob Graham established the first state-designated protection zones and made November Manatee Awareness Month.

1980 – Congress allocated $100,000 to the Marine Mammal Commission and the development of the initial Federal Manatee Recovery Plan.

1981 – Bob Graham and Jimmy Buffett formed the Save the Mantee Committee, the precursor of the Save the Manatee Club, which sought to protect manatees and their habitats.

1996 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revised the Manatee Recovery Plan Objectives to include the following: assess and minimize causes of manatee mortality and injury, protect essential habitat, determine and monitor the status of the manatee population, coordinate and oversee cooperative recovery work.

Learn more about the Save the Manatee Club’s mission here.

Loving These Mermaid Tips

Shortly after starting the Mondays for Mermaids series, I set up a Google alert for “mermaids.” Each day, I receive links to the latest mermaid posts or events. I have used some of the information and have bookmarked links for future reference. But when I received the link to Kayleigh Dray’s post, “23 Tips for the Ultimate Little Mermaid Wedding,” I couldn’t resist sharing.

Not to worry if wedding bells are in the distant future (or past). You can incorporate many of these tips into your next special event.

Visit the post here.

Here’s a sneak peek at three of my favorites…


Mermaid Humor

While fishing, three men catch a mermaid who begs to be set free in return for granting each of them a wish.

The first man shakes his head and says, “Okay, if you can really grant wishes, then double my IQ.”

The mermaid says, “Done.”

Suddenly, the man starts reciting Shakespeare flawlessly.

The second man is so amazed, he says to the mermaid, “Triple my IQ.”

The mermaid says, “Done.”

The man starts to spout out all the mathematical solutions to problems that have been stumping the scientists.

Impressed, the third man decides to one-up his friends. “Quintuple my IQ.”

The mermaid looks at him and says, “You know, I don’t usually try to change people’s minds when they make a wish, but I really wish that you would reconsider.”

The man is adamant. “No, I want you to increase my IQ times five, and if you don’t do it, I won’t set you free.”

“Please,” says the mermaid, “You don’t understand what you’re asking, it will change your entire view on the universe. Won’t you ask for something else….a million dollars, anything?”

But no matter what the mermaid said, the third man insisted on having his IQ increased by five times its usual power. So the mermaid sighed and said, “Done.”

And the third man is transformed into a woman.


A Mermaid Hoax

barnummermaidIn 1842, Phineas Barnum obtained a dead mermaid from the estate of a dead sailor who had purchased it from Japanese sailors. The sailors had captured the mermaid near the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific.

Intrigued, Barnum visited a naturalist who quickly dismissed the find, claiming that “he never knew a monkey with such peculiar teeth, arms, hands nor had he knowledge of a fish with such peculiar fins.”

The following conversation took place:

Barnum: “Then why do you suppose it is manufactured?”

Naturalist: “Because I don’t believe in mermaids.”

Barnum: “That is no reason at all, and therefore I’ll believe in the mermaid and hire it.” Barnum displayed the mermaid in his Museum in New York and attracted large crowds and media attention.

The controversy continued in the New York Sun where the following review appeared:

“We’ve seen it! What? Why that Mermaid! The mischief you have! Where? What is it? It’s a twin sister to the deucedest looking thing imaginable—half fish, half flesh; and taken by and large, the most odd of all oddities earth or sea has ever produced.”

Unfortunately, the mermaid was destroyed in a fire. Many replicas of the Fiji Mermaid (also called Feejee Mermaid) were created by sewing the head and torso of a juvenile monkey to the back half of a fish. These “mermaids” were common features of sideshows.

Protagonist Interview

interviewpixIn Between Land and Sea (released in September 2013), I introduced Barbara Davies aka Isabella of the Mediterranean Kingdom. She returns in The Coming of Arabella.

Before writing my novels, I like to interview the characters. Here’s what Barbara had to say at the beginning of The Coming of Arabella.

Continue reading on Kathy Bryson’s blog.