We all know who Christopher Columbus was. I even remember that in school they taught us a rhyme – in 1942 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Well, this Italian explorer was sailing near the Dominican Republic on January 9, 1493, when he thought that he saw three mermaids. At the time he thought that pictures of mermaids made these mystic maidens more beautiful than they really were. Of course, that is if mermaids really existed. What Columbus actually saw were sea creatures or manatees. I cannot figure out how he could have mistaken manatees for mermaids but supposedly that is what happened.
Stories about mermaids the mythical half-female, half-fish beings have existed in seafaring cultures since the time of ancient Greece. They are drawn as having a woman’s head and torso and a fishtail instead of legs. Mermaids make their home in seas and oceans and supposedly they can take on the shape of a human and even marry mortal men. This reminds me of my favorite mermaid Ariel from Disney’s “Little Mermaid”, who married a prince.
After what happened to Columbus it is thought that most likely any other sailors who said that they had seen mermaids had actually seen manatees or sea cows as they are also called. Manatees are aquatic mammals that are large and heavy and move slowly. I have never seen any outside of an aquarium but I really love seeing these creatures swim. An adult a manatee is 10 to 12 feet long and weighs 800 to 1,200 pounds. Amazingly for all that weight, they are plant-eaters and they can only survive in warm waters. Manatees have a life span of 50 to 60 years in the wild and they have no known natural predators, even though they are an endangered species. You can find manatees in the waters around Florida and unfortunately every year they get injured or die colliding with boats.