US Government Denies Existence Of Mermaids

The U.S. National Ocean Service has released a statement confirming there is no scientific evidence for mermaids.

Interesting – I didn’t realize this was a subject of debate.

Apparently it wasn’t until Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet network ran a spoof documentary titled “Mermaids: The Body Found.” The channel’s own press release labels the show “science fiction.” This wasn’t enough for some viewers and according to the BBC, the National Ocean Service received a couple of inquiries about the fishy folk. To keep the public from reviving the superstitions of illiterate 19th century sailors, they made a public denial of something they never thought they’d have to deny.

When I read this I went through the predictable range of reactions. First I laughed, then I felt smugly superior, then I said, “Hey, I need to write this up for Gadling!” Then I did something I didn’t expect.

I got very, very afraid.

The public dialogue is awash with ridiculous assertions: Obama is a Muslim, the Moon landings were faked, all foreigners hate America, aliens regularly visit Earth to anally probe drunk farmers, etc., etc. Last week we even learned that some radical ultra-Orthodox Jews believe Hitler and top Zionists plotted to create the Holocaust so the Jews could create Israel. I’m still shaking my head over that one.

This level of ignorance is the result of many factors, but one cause rules over them all: a complete lack of context. Our schools teach us so little about the world that it’s easy to believe anything. Even the most basic knowledge of history, biology, evolution, oceanography, or folklore would guarantee that someone wouldn’t believe in mermaids, yet some people who went through the educational system of the most powerful country in the world lack this knowledge.It’s easy to laugh this off when it’s about mermaids. It’s not so funny when educated people seriously ask me if I had to pack a two-month supply of food to live in Ethiopia, or if Spain still has roving gangs of bandidos.

And if you think nobody is encouraging and profiting off this rampant ignorance, think again. The Republican Party of Texas included as part of its 2012 platform that it opposes the teaching of critical thinking in schools. And no, I’m not picking on the GOP. All politicians manipulate public ignorance to further their own ends. With elections coming up, it’s time to get educated.

This is why I love travel. It gets rid of my ignorance and teaches me that I’m ignorant about things I didn’t even know I was clueless about. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, it changes unknown unknowns into known knowns. Example: five years ago I thought all of Somalia was in chaos – then I learned about Somaliland. OK, I thought, it’s safe for Somalis. I still assumed that it was too dangerous for foreigners. Then I actually went there and checked. Guess what? I’m still alive!

Knowledge is the great weapon of national freedom and personal liberation. If more people got out of their comfort zones and investigated their assumptions, maybe the American public would never have been convinced that one group of people were ignorant savages and needed to be pushed off their land, or another group of people were too stupid to take care of themselves and needed to be enslaved, or that another group of people had more loyalty to the old country than America and needed to be forced into internment camps for the duration of World War II.

This ignorance of “the other” is still rampant today and can turn ugly at any time. It’s in our own best interest to get out of our comfort zones. We don’t have to leave the country to travel. Our comfort zone ends at the other side of the tracks.

Always question, always be suspicious of an authority’s motives, and keep exploring.

Photo of the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge in Great Falls, Montana, courtesy Flickr user vsmoothe. That woman is a human actress in a mermaid suit, in case you’re wondering. And yes, I totally want to go swimming with her.

Dolly Parton’s ‘Pirates Voyage’ replaces ‘Dixie Stampede’ in Myrtle Beach

Pirates and mermaids have taken over Dolly Parton’s popular Western-themed Dixie Stampede theater show in Myrtle Beach, hoisting the Jolly Roger where cowboys had previously performed stunts for 19 years.

The Dixie Stampede dinner show, which is still running in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri, closed its doors in South Carolina last year. After an $11 million renovation that included installing a 15-foot, 750,000-gallon lagoon and three 30-foot pirate galleons, Pirates Voyage will begin tumbling, swimming, singing, dancing and sword fighting for the general public tomorrow. Tickets are $41.99 for adults, $21.99 for children age four to 11, and free for children under the age of four.

Parton says she began thinking of a pirate-themed show five years ago and maintains the idea had nothing to do with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise, but admits the “timing couldn’t be better” for the marauders to take over the show. Parton herself appears in an introductory video, can be seen swimming with the mermaids through the use of computer technology, and (of course) contributed to the soundtrack.

[Photo by Bruce Smith, AP]

Help Wanted: one mermaid

With the economy the way it is, it’s hard to get a job, so if you can’t find a position in your own field perhaps you should try a career change and become a mermaid.

That’s what the SeaQuarium in Rhyl, Wales, is offering. It wants one mermaid (or merman) to swim around with its fish during visitor hours. The applicant needs to wear a half-fish costume, have good hygiene, be a licensed scuba diver, and (here’s the downside) be willing to swim with the sharks.

Oh, and you have to clean the tanks too, so basically you’re a janitor with danger pay.

BBC reports that the company has been “flooded” with applicants, which says something about the state of the economy and the BBC’s sense of humor.

Hopeful merpeople must have their applications in by November 5. If the folks at SeaQuarium read Gadling, they wouldn’t be bothering with trying to hire humans; they’d go to Israel and get one of the real mermaids sighted there.

[Image of A Mermaid by John William Waterhouse, 1901, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

Small town in Israel hopes to get tourism boost from mermaid sightings

The small town of Kiryat Yam, near Haifa in Israel, may have a mermaid living in its waters. At least, the town council hopes they do. They say that dozens of people, in separate incidents, have reported seeing a half-girl, half-fish creature that jumps like a dolphin and plays in the sea at sunset.

The council is now offering a $1 million reward to anyone who can prove the mermaid does exist. Capturing her is not necessary; the council will accept photographic evidence. As a ploy to boost tourism, it seems to be working. According to ABC News, visitors are packing the shores each evening, trying to catch a glimpse of Israel’s Ariel. A rep for the town council says it is not a hoax to bring in more visitors, but adds “I believe if there really is a mermaid, then so many people will come to Kiryat Yam, a lot more money will be made then $1 million.”

So, who wants to go to Israel with me? i just need to pack my Little Mermaid costume and my Nikon.

Mermaids of the Weeki Wachee Springs

How come I never knew about this Florida attraction? Located just an hour north from my home digs in Tampa the mermaids of Weeki Wachee seem like a really fun-filled family destination far off and away from Mickey Mouse as can possibly be. The author of this Miami Herald story does a dazzling job in making me want to experience the siren song of the mermaids for my own. The amusement park falls under the B-list which isn’t hard to imagine being in a state where all things revolve around the mouse, but was made famous in the 50’s and 60’s for the performing mermaids.

The Weeki Wachee Springs are said to be the real thing too. As one of Florida’s natural wonders, the spring where the park’s 14 mermaids perform is 16 to 20 feet under the surface. The park sees some 250,000 visitors each year whom most of which are adults who experienced the show when they were kids. I’m sure everyone reading this is thinking this sounds totally cool and gnarly and you’re all set to go take the day off and check out the mermaids with me, right? Well, the park may be a thing of the past since a 30-year lease and whether or not it should be rewritten is up for debate in courts. Man that stinks. Better go before it’s gone. I am.

Least it’s nice to know Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and even Elvis Presley all give or gave a hoot about the park at some point or another.