I am forced to say that mermaids do not exist, at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands or anywhere else. If I say otherwise, they'll kill me.
Death threats aside, whether mermaids are real or not depends on evidence. There are plenty of fictional accounts of mermaids, in print and visual media. There's the Little Mermaid/Sea Maid, depending on whether it's the Disney version with a happy ending or the traditional fairytale which is more tragic. There are stories for children and young adults, with a few stories for adults, too. Yes, my novel Ocean's Gift is one of those rare mermaid stories for grown-ups. They appear as main characters in movies like Splash, but as incidental characters in movies in both the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Harry Potter series.
Animal Planet put out a programme about mermaids, Mermaids: The Body Found. If you missed the episode, you can view it here. Also a work of fiction, this programme suggests that merpeople are humans that evolved differently. At the end of the programme, the “researchers” (okay, paid actors pretending to be researchers) go out into the open ocean in a tiny boat with a recording of mermaids, hoping to call them to the boat so they can see the mermaids. Perhaps it's all my work on Ocean's Gift, but it's only this end scene that had me riveted. If real mermaids had been attracted to the research vessel, the boat would have been quickly sunk by a freak wave. All those aboard would have been pulled under and sharks called to dispose of the bodies. The crew on the second boat who were filming the research vessel would have met with a similar disaster. The people of the ocean's gift protect their own, to the length of taking out any humans who might have stumbled on the mermaids' secret existence. Of course, the people of the ocean's gift are just a figment of my imagination, characters in Ocean's Gift. Mermaids can't possibly exist, so they can't be hunting me or a nosy TV crew. Right?
The US NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) state that, “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.” They even put out a fact sheet on mermaids – which you can see here. This may indeed be the case. An alternative solution is offered by Maria, one of the characters in Ocean's Gift:
“I think that human government department has one of our kind working in it. Our Pacific sisters must have a powerful singer as skilled as Vanessa, who passes for human. “
Infiltration of government departments by non-humans, mutants, aliens and anything else that can pose as humanoid is a common theme in popular media. Take Men in Black, X-Men, Stargate…to list just a few. If mermaids exist and work hard to hide their existence from humans, they will need to have key people in human institutions to ensure that any reports or evidence go missing or arrive at different conclusions. Somewhere, there would me a mermaid media officer, combing electronic and print media for rumours that mermaids exist, then quashing those rumours using whatever means necessary.
Of course, if there are mermaids infiltrating human institutions in reality as opposed to just in movies, it would be somewhat embarrassing for the government department involved. It's hardly something they'd put out media releases about.
There are stories of mermaids across the world. In Zimbabwe, construction of a reservoir has been delayed because of mermaids – you can view the news article here. At Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, there's a legend about a water dragon or a mermaid in one of the caves not far from the settlement area. I went out to the cave during my time on Christmas Island. Whatever was in the Grotto, dragon or mermaid, she sure was grumpy! Maybe she didn't like the weather – there was a cyclone coming in that day. I took some video and posted it on YouTube, which you can view:
Note: Video isn't my forte. I prefer taking still photographs, but to capture the sound I needed to take video.
The Christmas Island guidebooks offer various explanations. My favourite describes how a water dragon became lost after leaving China, but heard people speaking a Chinese dialect (I'm sorry, I'm not sure which one) at Christmas Island. Lost and lonely, the dragon made her home in one of the Christmas Island caves, where she greets visitors with a loud roar.
Belinda, a character in Ocean's Gift, offers a different explanation: the roaring in the Grotto is her mother, when in a particularly bad mood:
“She chose a rock island, far to the north. She hid in the caves beneath the island and roared her defiance at the cave walls, avoiding both her people and her duty. Yet the humans on the island heard her and one day one of them glimpsed her, swimming in the water. They called her a water dragon, for that was what she appeared to be to them.”
Whether mermaids exist or not is a matter for observation and evidence. The reality is that they may be real, but carefully hidden from humans, because of their small numbers and the need to protect their people from us. There are creatures on land that have not been seen or described before, being discovered by science every week in Western Australia alone. In comparison, Western Australia has been explored far more thoroughly than the Indian Ocean that laps at its coastline. If there are mermaids in the depths of the ocean, it's entirely possible that we are ignorant of the fact.
My personal opinion, despite writing a fiction novel about mermaids which will be the first of a series, is that mermaids don't exist. They're not real, they don't live at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands or Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean and they won't come ashore to ensure I disappear, taking their secrets to the depths with me.
I'll say it again: There are no mermaids at the Abrolhos. And they'll kill me if I tell you otherwise.
Do you believe mermaids are real?