Mermaids don't exist, says US government (+video)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has attempted to put an end to the mermaid myth by denying the existence of the fabled aquatic creature.
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In popular myth, mermaids are half-human, half-fish sirens of the sea. As the ocean facts post points out, they "are legendary sea creatures chronicled in maritime cultures since time immemorial." For instance, Homer wrote of them in the ancient Greek epic "The Odyssey," and in the Far East, mermaids were considered the wives of powerful sea dragons, serving as trusted messengers between the spouses and emperors of the land.Skip to next paragraph
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In fact, the scientific grouping Sirenia, which includes manatees and their close relative the dugong comes from mermaid legend. Sailors long ago mistook these large gentle marine mammals for mermaids, or sirens who sang songs to lure ships into rocky shores. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus recorded a sighting of a manatee, saying he was surprised at the not-so-beautiful "mermaid," according to the Dolphin Research Center in Florida.
The aboriginal people of Australia had their own name for mermaids, yawkyawks, which could refer to the sirens' allegedly mesmerizing songs. In fact, as far back as 30,000 years ago when humans were becoming the dominant species of the land, and possibly taking to the seas, they seem to have imagined magical female figures. These figures first appear in cave paintings at the time.
"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," according to the NOAA Web posting.
Even today, "mermaid" sightings still occur. For instance, in 2009 in the Israeli town of Kiryat Yam, locals and tourists flocked to the coast in hopes of glimpsing an alleged mermaid that resembled a cross between a fish and a young girl; apparently she would only appear at sunset.
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