(WFLA) – Mermaids were spotted 528 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 history.com, 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, history.com 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.