By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON, July 5 (Reuters) - This may not be much of a
surprise, but mermaids aren't real. No less an authority than
the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has
debunked the existence of the legendary half-woman, half-fish
NOAA's National Ocean Service came out against the reality
of mermaids after a documentary-style science fiction program on
the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet suggested in May that the
body of a mermaid had been found on a beach.
Of course, it wasn't. But the program prompted public
inquiries to NOAA, which more commonly deals with questions
about weather, water and solar storms.
"No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found," the
agency wrote on its "Ocean Facts" page at http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/mermaids/html.
Humans have been wondering about mermaids since the Stone
Age, as shown in cave paintings of magical female figures made
30,000 years ago, NOAA said.
"But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has
ever been found. Why, then, do they occupy the collective
unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That's a question
best left to historians, philosophers and anthropologists."
Ben Sherman, a spokesman for the Ocean Service, said the
item on mermaids was posted June 27 in response to queries about
Discovery's fictional "documentary." There was also interest on
a couple of NOAA's Facebook pages, he said in an email to
Reuters on Thursday.
"This Ocean Fact received little attention until the
Discovery News Channel reposted it with commentary on June 29,"
The Discovery site - http://news.discovery.com/animals/noaa-mermaids-120629.html
- suggested NOAA responded because Discovery's
documentary-style show, "Mermaids: The Body Found," had painted
a convincing picture of the existence of mermaids.
"The show was an 'X-Files' type fanciful mix of
state-of-the-art computer generated animation, historical fact,
conspiracy theory and real and faked footage sprinkled with
enough bits of scientific speculation and real science to make
it seem plausible," the Discovery site said.
In fact, NOAA scientists recorded a mysterious sound in the
Pacific Ocean in 1997 that they called "The Bloop," and the
source of this sound has never been identified. The Discovery
program mentioned this finding. Listen to "The Bloop" at http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/vents/acoustics/sounds/bloop.html.
For conspiracy theorists, there is a website called http://believeinmermaids.com/
that purports to show that it has been "seized" by the Justice
Department and Homeland Security Investigations.
"It is a hoax," wrote Ross Feinstein of the U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement agency, which oversees the seizure of
web sites engaged in criminal activity. Claiming that mermaids
exist is not a crime, Feinstein said by telephone.
"This operation is focused on counterfeit goods and piracy,
not freedom of speech - including those regarding the existence
of mermaids," he wrote. "It is not our agency's position to
judge whether or not mermaids exist or don't exist. ... Our
agency has no open investigations into any issues regarding
(Editing by David Lindsey and Vicki Allen)
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