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Circa 1500, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Circa 1500, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. (Getty)

Today is the 525th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering ugly mermaids. Bummed at what they looked like in real life, Columbus described them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.”

Hunting two mermaids in the rocks on the background of a stormy ocean and the raging waves. Getty
Hunting mermaids in a stormy ocean and the raging waves (Getty)

Uh…. that’s because they were manatees, Chris.

Mandilo, a baby manatee which was born on April 24, 2014 swims near its mother on July 19, 2014 at the Zoo Parc of Beauval. Mandilo was rescued and bottle fed by trainers for a month until his mother accepted to breastfeed it. AFP PHOTO / GUILLAUME SOUVANT (Photo credit should read GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images)
Baby manatee swims near its mother (Getty)

Columbus and his crew were sailing near the Dominican Republican in January of 1493 when he spotted and reported the three “mermaids;” he wasn’t alone in what he thought. According to, most of the mermaid legends told by sailors — the ones that weren’t outright lies — were probably manatee sightings.

Or maybe dugongs.

Dugong in Egypt in Marsa Alam
A dugong in Egypt (Getty)

Or Steller’s sea cows.

1889: A mermaid is startled by a manatee or sea cow. The manatee has long been thought to have inspired the stories of mermaid sightings. A newspaper illustration by Masquoid. (Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images)
A mermaid is startled by a manatee or sea cow (Getty)

The true sea cow became extinct in the 1760s, but we’ve all felt that way at the beach sometimes, amirite?

A kitesurfer sails on a downwind run on the waves of Mediterranean Sea as the cows stand on the shore of the sea near the town of Ulcinj on May 19, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ARMEND NIMANI (Photo credit should read ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Cows at the sea (Getty)

Manatees live in warm water, so it makes sense they were near the Dominican Republic.

Mermaids have been around at least since Greek times and according to some legends (and movies like Splash and The Little Mermaid), they can take on human form and marry mortal men.


So maybe Chris was just lonely after all that time at sea?

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