Sea Meeting

Extract from the logbook of the ship Leonidas, sailing from New York toward Le Havre, May 1817, latitude 44°6′ north; cited in American Journal of Science, April 1820:

First part of the day light variable winds and cloudy; at two P.M. on the larboard quarter, at the distance of about half the ship’s length, saw a strange fish. Its lower parts were like a fish; its belly was all white; the top of the back brown, and there was the appearance of short hair as far as the top of its head. From the breast upwards, it had a near resemblance to a human being and looked upon the observers very earnestly; as it was but a short distance from the ship, all the afternoon, we had a good opportunity to observe its motions and shape. No one on board ever saw the like fish, before; all believe it to be a Mermaid.

The second mate Mr. Stevens, an intelligent young man, told me the face was nearly white, and exactly like that of a human person; that its arms were about half as long as his, with hands resembling his own; that it stood erect out of the water about two feet, looking at the ship and sails with great earnestness. It would remain in this attitude, close along side, ten or fifteen minutes at a time, and then dive and appear on the other side. It remained around them about six hours. Mr. Stevens also stated that its hair was black on the head and exactly resembled a man’s; that below the arms, it was a perfect fish in form, and that the whole length from the head to the tail about five feet.

“Communicated by Mr. Elisha Lewis of New-Haven, a respectable merchant.”