Christopher Columbus discovers mermaids, er, manatees 527 years ago

Manatee Deaths Florida_1534800197897

FILE- This Dec. 28, 2010 photos shows a group of manatees in a canal where discharge from a nearby Florida Power & Light plant warms the water in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Florida wildlife officials say 538 manatees were found dead in the state’s waterways in 2017. That’s the third-highest annual death toll on record for […]

(WFLA) – Mermaids were spotted 527 years ago today by Christopher Columbus. At least he thought they were mermaids, but they were actually our beloved manatees.

The Italian explorer was sailing near the Dominican Republic on Jan. 9, 1493 when he spotted three manatees. 

According to, he thought they were ugly and described the mermaids as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” 

Columbus had left Spain six months earlier with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria to find a western trade route to Asia. And of course, as history goes, he discovered America.


There were many tales of half female and half fish creatures on the high seas through the decades. Most were likely manatees or lies, reported.

We Floridians believe in mermaids — at least the iconic mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. They perform regular underwater shows.

Now, most manatees in the U.S. are found in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says roughly 7,500 to 10,300 manatees swim in state waters.



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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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