Did Columbus really see mermaids?

On 9 January 1493, Christopher Columbus observed something he had before seen on the coasts of Africa… Mermaids.  In his journal he described the encounter with three mermaids that elevated themselves above the suface of the sea.

Card depicting a mermaid

Most likely mistaking manatees, aquatic mammals also known as sea cows, for mermaids, “Columbus, disposed to give a wonderful character to everything in this New World, had identified these misshapen animals with the sirens of ancient story”, explained historian Washington Irving.

Excerpt from Irving's book on Columbus, page 144

In his journal entry, Columbus also added that the mermaids were by no means as beautiful as depicted in folk tales.

Indeed, mermaids have been traditionally known as creatures of divine beauty. Across the globe, from generation to generation, legends have been told about the mesmerising voices of mermaids that bewitched sailors to join the underwater world.

Here are some of the examples of how mermaids have been depicted in different countries:

Book cover of Andersen's The Little Mermaid
Seejungfrau

 

See more on Europeana.

18 thoughts on “Did Columbus really see mermaids?

  1. Interesting!
    A book with 275 illustrations and 13 pages bibliography about mermaids is by Meri Lao: ‘Le Sirene (da Omero ai pompieri)’, Antonio Rotundo Editore, Roma 1985, 393 pp. The author dedicated her book to Federico Fellini.

  2. I believe that he recorded what he saw. There was a painter from Carriacou called Caliste who also saw a mermaid when he was 9 years old and the vision changed his life as he painted many mermaids. Columbus also saw a USO off the bow, this is even harder to believe, but what if both are true?

  3. Sightings of water creatures are commonly recorded as mermaids. Hybrid creatures have been a part of oral mythology for millennia, created as symbols to assist in recording ancient cultural history and knowledge. For example, the sphinx is a combination of Virgo and Leo at the equinox of the Great Year. Mermaids are symbols which represent women of the ancient mariner’s culture, during the warm centuries around 4000 BC. Some of these women were expert navigators – masters of astronomy, currents, and geography. See more of their astonishing history at Once Upon a Time: World of Symbols blog.

  4. I think that they are real because, what if they really are real but they are not called mermaids. Ok, Go on YouTube and look up
    : Greenland mermaid. SEE IF THATS REAL OR NOT. and look up the Israel Mermaid. THESE SIGHTINGS WERE BOTH IN 2013 (today).

  5. i think mermaids are real. some humans give birth to mermaids. it sounds fake but it is true, so there is a great chance that mermaids live underwater, but the siren thing sounds false to me. what do you think?

  6. I don’t think that people living so long ago or being sailors made them stupid or delusional. I think sailors’ accounts are dismissed far too easily.

  7. HI FRNDS! I BELEAVE IN MERMAIDS AM PLANING TO MAKE A MOVIE OF MERMAIDS. IF U HAVE ANY EVIDENCE PICTURES OR VIDEOS OF MERMAIDS PLS LET US KNOW WE DOING RESEARCH OF IT AND ALSO PLANNING TO MAKE A MOVIE

      1. How do you reach them by dolphins? Just follow them? Have you tried this & iv’e seen that apperantly people believe dolphins are friendly & help humans in trouble & fishing maybe because of mermaids being in contact with them this mermaid documentary explains this along with other evidence you can find on the internet personally I believe they are real iv’e never seen one but iv’e seen some things that you might not believe some things I have footage of

  8. How do you reach them by dolphins? Just follow them? Have you tried this & iv’e seen that apperantly people believe dolphins are friendly & help humans in trouble & fishing maybe because of mermaids being in contact with them this mermaid documentary explains this along with other evidence you can find on the internet

  9. How do you reach them by dolphins? Just follow them? Have you tried this & iv’e seen that apperantly people believe dolphins are friendly & help humans in trouble & fishing maybe because of mermaids being in contact with them this mermaid documentary explains this along with other evidence you can find on the internet personally I believe they are real iv’e never seen one but iv’e seen some things that you might not believe some things I have footage of by the way there was a lady who travelled the whole world experienced all religions & beliefs & went to loads of spiritual events held good jobs some very interesting & she was highly intelligent she died recently at the age of 90 something but she received a letter from a friend in Cornwall England I believe who said she had seen mermaids they are real so make of it what you want the only interesting thing I keep seeing is people who say they’ve seen things must not be seeing what they say there seeing I think people think people are idiots some people will only believe it untill they see it well good luck seeing the air we breathe oxygen it’s supposed to be everywhere yet you don’t see it also they say they’ve discovered 4% of the worlds oceans only 4% & new species are found all the time some say nearly every day only recently was a 20ft something whale seen which has never been seen or discovered before yet they reckon the species has been around for ages god knows how long another interesting thing is every part of the world has sightings or drawings or writings of mermaids it doesn’t take a rocket scienctist to work it out does it I genuinely think people need to be more open minded because right now there’s too many who think people aren’t seeing what there seeing & try to disprove it untill they see it themselves now I’m not saying don’t be skeptical but keep an open mind for example if I’m swimming & I see what I think to be a mermaid I won’t go I seen a manta ray or a another species but il say I’m 99% sure it was a mermaid but it could have been something else rather than saying no it can’t be it’s not possible it doesn’t make sense if you look at all the creatures on this planet you realise nothing is impossible some say if it was prooved mermaids aliens & god knows what else is proved to be fact among the whole planet like lions tigers etc then some religions would crumble & wouldn’t be as strong or as believe able as they are now the same goes a little bit for science of what can be can exist & what can’t some things just defy the laws of what some believe is possible untill you accept nothing is impossible you won’t have a open mind but live in a box live in a lie you feed yourself rather than accept that things you don’t know about exist it only makes sense great example I can give is this we have only explored 4% of our oceans that doesn’t include lakes amazons massive parks & nature rarely explored & people are finding new species in & out the sea everyday whether it be insects fish mammals etc you get the drift so all this life on our planet we are yet to find places we have not explored now they say we are 1 planet out of an unlimited universe that means millions billions unlimited number of planets & you think we are the only planet with life or intelligent life you would have to be an idiot to believe that not a idiot to believe there is life out there in our oceans it’s just common sense not rocket science is doesn’t take a genius to comprehend that does it anyways good luck to all of you in life & all the best hopefully we all have a good life 1 love

  10. “Columbus, disposed to give a wonderful character to everything in this New World, had identified these misshapen animals with the sirens of ancient story”

    How if the truth is colombus only need to explain that this world is truly wonderfull?? but it’s hard for him to tell that “big wonderfull” into a paragraph of text.

  11. Have you ever thought how dolphins are not afraid of us humans, just like dogs (who are tamed and are as our pets). Maybe dolphins are the equivalent to dogs but for in the deep blue sea and they don’t mind us humans because we look so similar to mermaids that they are used to seeing us and they help us when we are in need because they would do the same for a mermaid?(if that makes sense 🙂 )

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