Myth Monday: Mermaids

Mermaids; sometimes they are devastatingly beautiful, other times horrifically ugly- either way, they always seem to be half fish, half human. We know by now that mermaids aren’t actually real, but there are so many stories about them. Where do they all come from?

Fish/human hybrids have never actually existed, but there was an attempt to make humans more “fish-like”, with the aid of a personal transportation device known as the “Man-Fin.” This device was a steam-powered water vehicle that affixed itself to the legs of the user, so that he may swim at extreme speeds. Sir Dennis P Chamberlain invented this device back in the mid-to-late 19th century, in order to swim the English Channel in record time.

The Man-Fin was manufactured out of shining brass, making it glimmer like fish scales, and, for hydrodynamic purposes, it was shaped like fish tails. There was only one ever made; Chamberlain’s prototype, which he attempted (but failed) to use, and was subsequently killed by, after he lost control and it drove him deep beneath the waves.

Chamberlain was not a skinny fellow- he was actually quite large, and for the Man-Fin to function properly, the user has to be relatively streamlined. To avoid flapping and drag from the waves, Chamberlain created a brassiere made of large seashells- he liked the aquatic theme. He used this bra to tame in his unruly chest fat, and theoretically, it should have allowed him to have better control. Unfortunately, he forgot to reign in his belly fat; that was his undoing. Also, he found that a brassiere of seashells was not very supportive; admittedly, this seems like common sense.

So there was only one voyage of the Man-Fin, and it failed, but it was enough for numerous people to see Chamberlain swimming across the water, and invent their own stories. Although this seems to dispel the mystery, how anyone ever mistook the stocky Dennis Chamberlain for a beautiful woman is another mystery in its own right. It just may be that this is another case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

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