An Oceans Abcdarium created by the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany


Alana Nastold

Many phantastic creatures have been said by sailors to live in the oceans, over many centuries. Some of them can be seen on Olaus Magnus’ Carta Marina, a map of the Nordic countries published in 1539. The sea seems to be teeming with all kinds of exotic or frightening animals. Several of them are real, yet are depicted extravagantly, while others are clearly a wholesale product of imagination. Ancient tales give accounts of mermaids and sirens—many of them associated with sinking ships and doom. Since then, the mermaids’ image has changed. Mermaiding has become a tourist attraction: from the mid-twentieth century onwards, swimming in a mermaid costume has become a popular tourist activity with a growing community around the world. In some of those mermaid schools environmental issues are addressed. Blurring the boundary between human and fish, the mermaid has become an ambassador for the preservation of the world beneath the waves that raised so many fears in the past.

Sources: Rossby, Thomas and Peter Miller, “Ocean Eddies in the 1539 Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus”, Oceanography, (2003).

Porter, Brooke and Michael Lück, “Mermaiding as a Form of Marine Devotion: A case study of a mermaid school in Borcay, Philippines”, Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, (2018).