Mermaid sightings March 04, 2005 11:38 AM
The Deerness Mermaid
What is probably the most famous sighting of a mermaid took place over a few summers around 1890.
At this time there were a series of sightings of a mysterious creature that came to be known as "the Deerness Mermaid".
A regular visitor to Newark Bay in Deerness, the mermaid went on to achieve considerable fame, with hundreds of eyewitnesses swearing to the validity of their encounters. From documented reports, it appears that the creature stayed some distance from the shore, so exact details are vague.
But one account does provide a good description of a sighting and, as you will see, it was a far cry from the archetypal storybook mermaid:
"It is about six to seven feet in length, has a little black head, with neck, a snow white body and two arms, and in swimming it just appears like a human being. At times it will appear to be siding on a sunken rock, and will wave and work its hands."
The Hoy Sea Woman
Rising Mermaid: Illustration by Sigurd TowrieAnother mermaid encounter was reported in 1913, and details the multiple sightings of a mermaid in the deep waters off the south eastern coast of Hoy.
In this case, the crew of a Longhope fishing boat, at the creels by the Old Man of Hoy, claimed they had witnessed the mermaid rising from the waters of the Pentland Firth.
The creature, they said, rose to a height of three feet above the waves and was described as being like a lady with a shawl draped around her shoulders.
This sighting was their third encounter with the mysterious sea-woman, although the account makes no mention as to whether she preferred to frequent the same stretch of water, or whether all three sightings had taken place in different locations.
The King's Mirror
What is intriguing about the Hoy mermaid account is the similarity between it and a medieval Norse text called The King's Mirror.
In this text the author gives a description of a merman encounter at sea:
"This monster is tall and of great size and rises straight out of the water. It has shoulders like a man's but no hands. It's body appears to grow narrower from the shoulders down, so that the lower down it has been observed the more slender it has seemed to be. But no-one has ever observed it closely enough to determine whether its body has scales like a fish or skin like a man. Whenever the monster has shown itself, men have always been sure that a storm would follow."
This ancient account describes perfectly the creature the Hoy fishermen encountered three times in 1913.
But what was it?
Creature of the deep or atmospheric phenomenon?
A recent study of atmospheric conditions may hold the answer, and it could be that "Hoy Sea Woman" sightings owe more to an optical illusion than to denizens of the sea.
The clues lie in the strange, elongated shape of the creature and the fact that storms generally followed their sightings.
In the cold northern waters surrounding Orkney, the warmer air that precedes a storm mixes in a layer over the sea, creating a swirling mass of air.
This vortex of air, constantly changing temperature, acts as a distorting lens that exaggerates the height of an object at sea level but not its width.
Seen through this distorting wall of air, the top of a seal's head, or even a rock, can appear like the towering mermaid described in both accounts.
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Michigan Mermaid March 04, 2005 11:52 AM
From the very first years of the founding of the Israelite House of David at Fostoria, Ohio, 1902, there have been more than numerous myths, rumors, legends and falsehoods of towering proportion due to many misrepresentations through ignorance or willful desires to distort the reality of both the historical fact and the religious practices of the Israelite community.
Although a recent pulp tabloid installment in a major Michigan newspaper added to the fictional mythology by listing "fishing industries" as one of our former enterprises, all such humorous attempts upon the life of this subject have missed the rare, but several purported, sightings, of a lovely mermaid at Eastman Springs during the past 120 years-plus.
An interesting over sight on the part of pulp journalism to over look such a mythical figurine in southwestern Michigan history: the Silver Queen of Eastman Springs. First sighted during the 1870s, upon which the famous mineral/spring water fountain was later named and marketed to the locals as well as Chicago and Milwaukee hotels. For over a century there have been rumored sightings of this phantom figurine that was depicted upon the label of the famous Silver Queen water glass containers as early as the late 1880s. There have been few recorded instances of actual sightings, yet more than several accounts of catching a glimpse of a beautiful queenly disposed feminine figurine that several times was described as "mermaid-like". There have been no recorded sightings for now over 40 years, and the legends have almost been forgotten and lost to local antiquity and curiosities. Only the very aged, and few among them, that remember or ever have heard of this semi-fictional phantom creature that is reported to have been spotted at the Eastman Estate since as early as the dawn of the Eastman era in Benton Harbor. (1879)
Like so many other aspects of our locally very colorful history, we also have a legendary recording of a phantom creature, so rarely sited that was to become unknown and almost forgotten. But like footprints of "Big Foot" and photographs of the Loch Ness monster, along with witness accounts ... there probably is something from which this all has an actual reality.
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