Throughout history, people from nearly every culture have independently described the same half-man, half-fish anomaly. What if there’s a kernel of truth behind the legend of this mythic creature? Is the idea of mermaids really so far-fetched? Maybe so, maybe not. The show itself, though science fiction, is based on some real events and scientific theory.
“The theory of ‘aquatic ape’ mentioned in the program is real and has been studied for decades,” says Charlie Foley, creator, writer and executive producer of the show, and SVP of Development. “Many events in the show have occurred — i.e. the whale beachings, Navy experimental sonar testing, The Bloop…”
The Bloop is a powerful, ultra-low frequency sound detected by NOAA in 1997. No one has been able to figure out yet what makes the sound; it remains a complete mystery. With so much still unknown about the world’s oceans — 95 percent of which remain unexplored — perhaps then the existence of mermaids isn’t totally implausible.
“I believe in possibilities and the power of imagination,” says Charlie, “that we haven’t found everything out there yet. In the past two decades alone, we just learned about two species of whales that we never knew existed.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean mermaids exist, but “if polar bears evolved from the brown bear,” asks Charlie, “isn’t it possible that a mermaid, which was reported in disparate civilizations for ages, evolved from a human-like creature that retreated into the water?”
Meanwhile, there is no evidence that mermaids exist, a US government scientific agency has said.
The National Ocean Service made the unusual declaration in response to public inquiries following a TV show on the mythical creatures.
It is thought some viewers may have mistaken the programme for a documentary.
"No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found," the service wrote in an online post.
The National Ocean Service - a division of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) - posted an article last week on its educational website, Ocean Facts.
Images and tales of mermaids - half-human, half-fish - appear in mythology and art from across the world and through history, from Homer's Odyssey to the oral lore of the Australian aboriginals, the service wrote.
The article was written from publicly available sources because "we don't have a mermaid science programme", National Ocean Service spokeswoman Carol Kavanagh told the BBC.
She said that at least two people had written to the agency asking about the creatures.
The inquiries followed May's broadcast of Mermaids: The Body Found, on the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet network.
The programme was a work of fiction but its wink-and-nod format apparently led some viewers to believe it was a science education show, the Discovery Channel has acknowledged.