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Mermaid (ch. 2)
The Middle AgesActually, in those areas, people had encounters with mermaids quite often. This is what British Navy Captain Richard Whitbourne wrote in his book, “Now also I will not omit to relate something of a strange creature which I first saw here in the year 1610. In the morning early, as I was standing by the river side in the harbour of St. John’s, in Newfoundland, a surprising creature came very swiftly swimming towards me, looking cheerfully in my face; it was like a woman by the face, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, ears, neck and forehead; it seemed to be as beautiful, and in those parts as well proportioned. Round the head it had many blue streaks resembling hair, but certainly it was not hair.
Yet I beheld it long, and another of my company also yet living, that was near me. At its approach I stepped back, for it was come within the length of a long pike of me, supposing it would have sprung on land to me; for I had seen huge whales, and other great fish, spring a great height above water, and so might this strange creature do to me, if I had stood still where I was: by its actions I verily believe it had such a purpose; but when it saw that I went from it, it did thereupon dive a little under water, and swam towards the place where a little before I had landed, often looking back towards me, whereby I beheld the shoulders and back down to the middle to be as square, white, and smooth, as the back of a man, and from the middle to the hinder part it was pointing, in proportion something like a broad-hooked arrow.
How it was in the fore part, from the neck and shoulders downwards, I could not well discern. It came shortly after to a boat in the same harbour (wherein was my servant William Hawkridge, since captain of a ship to the East Indies). This creature put both its hands upon the side of the boat, and did strive much to come into him and divers others then in the same boat, whereat they were afraid, and one of them struck it a full blow on the head, whereby it fell off from them; but afterwards it came to two other boats in the same harbour: as they lay near the shore, the men in them for fear fled to land. This, I suppose, was a Merman or Mermaid. As there are others that have written of these creatures, I have presumed to relate what I have seen, which is most certainly true. ”
Peter I and mermaids
In 1619, two counselors of King of Denmark Christian IV, while heading from Norway to Sweden, suddenly noticed a creature which reminded a mermaid. Sailors threw a piece of bacon on a hook with a strong line. The creature swallowed the bait and was dragged onto the deck. However, it began to scream and its screams were so piercing, that there was nothing for the sailors but to push it back into the sea.
Once, Peter I, while at the Dutch shipyard, saw an engraving picturing a mermaid. He wanted to know more about that creature, so he found the one who published the book, which contained that engraving, and then found the author. It was a Danish colonial priest François Valentine. The priest told the tsar that he saw one human-like creature, that apparently lived in the sea, blue-grey in color, with his own eyes. It happened on a clear day on May 1, 1714. This creature rose above sea level, having some sort of a fisherman’s hat or moss on its head. The entire company saw it, too. It was with its back towards them, but sensed they were approaching, dived, and never showed up again.
To confirm the fact that the creatures like the one depicted on the engraving really existed, the priest also referred to the following, noting it was highly trustworthy. In 1652 or 1653, one lieutenant saw two suchlike creatures in the harbour near the islands of Ceram and Boero, near Ambon (now Indonesia). They were swimming side by side, which might indicate they were a male and a female. Six weeks later, at the same place, about 50 people witnessed them again. They were green-grey, had arms and from their head to their waist looked completely like humans, but from their waist down they were narrow and this part of their body reminded a tail…
Many naturalists spent years studying supposed sightings of mermaids. Members of a Royal Danish Commission founded in 1823 were to clarify this question. A mummified mermaid was exhibited at the British Museum in 1830. Two other stuffed mermaids were kept at the Royal Medical College. Unfortunately, when the Nazis attacked London, none of the exhibits made it through their raids.
In 1960, English marine biologist Alister Hardy made an assumption that humans, at some point of their evolution, were more aquatic than previously imagined and lived in the sea and, probably, some of them still do. Who knows…
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