The siren song of the mermaid, accompanied by the trumpeting of a triton conch or the strings of a harp or lyre, tempted many an early mariner. Perched on lonely rock outcroppings, their frightening screams warned of approaching gales, as well. Sightings were not limited to superstitious seamen with overactive imaginations, or one too many rations of rum, but were reported by sucj notable explorers as Columbus.
In 1614, Captain John Smith wrote, "She was swimming about with extra-ordinary grace, ... all in all a very attractive woman, but below the waiste the tale of a fish." Hendrick Hudson, during one of his voyages reported, "one of our companie looking overboord saw a mermaid ... one more (of the companie) came up and by that time shee was come close to the ships side, looking earnestly on the men: from navill upward, her backe and breasts were like a woman's, ... her long hair hanging down behinde, of color black. They saw her tayle, which was like the tayle of a porpoise and speckled like a macrell."
Alas, in more recent times, devoid of the mystery and wonder of an earlier age, sightings of mermaids are regrettably much rarer.