We often think of mermaids as being found only in ocean water, or in southern climates. But there have been several reports of northern mermaid sightings written about in Canadian history books, and in newspapers.
The Mermaids of the Bay of Fundy
First, near the Bay of Fundy, an old Indian legend that has been passed down: (edited for brevity) "A long time ago there was an Indian, with his wife and two daughters. They lived by a great lake, or the sea, and the mother told her girls never to go into the water there, for that, if they did, something would happen to them. They, however, deceived her repeatedly. When swimming is prohibited it becomes delightful. The shore of this lake sands away out or slopes to an island. One day they went to it, leaving their clothes on the beach. The parents missed them. The father went to seek them. He saw them swimming far out, and called to them. The girls swam up to the sand, but could get no further. Their father asked them why they could not. They cried that they had grown to be so heavy that it was impossible. They were all slimy; they grew to be snakes from below the waist. After sinking a few times in this strange slime they became very handsome, with long black hair and large, bright black eyes, with silver bands on their neck and arms. When their father went to get their clothes, they began to sing in the most exquisite tones:- Leave them there! Do not touch them! And so it was, when their parents went in the canoe, the girls carried it safely on everywhere. One day some Indians saw the girls' clothes on the beach, and so looked out for the wearers. They found them in the water, and pursued them, and tried to capture them, but they were so slimy that it was impossible to take them, till one, catching hold of a mermaid by her long black hair, cut it off. Then the girl began to rock the canoe, and threatened to upset it unless her hair was given to her again. The fellow who had played the trick at first refused, but as the mermaids, or snake-maids, promised that they should all be drowned unless this was done, the locks were restored. And the next day they were heard singing and were seen, and on her who had lost her hair it was all growing as long as ever."
The Mermaid of Gabarus, Cape Breton Island - 1886
The first published report was described in the Cape Breton Eagle newspaper in August of 1886. "The fishermen of Gabarus, Cape Breton, have been excited over the appearances of a mermaid, seen in the waters by some fishermen a few days ago. While Mr. Bagnall, accompanied by several fishermen, was out in a boat, they observed floating on the surface of the water a few yards from the boat what they supposed to be a corpse. Approaching it for the purpose of taking it ashore, they observed it to move, when to their great surprise, it turned around in a sitting position and looked at them and disappeared. A few moments after, it appeared on the surface and again looked toward them, after which it disappeared altogether. The face, head, shoulders and arms resembled those of a human being, but the lower extremities had the appearance of a fish. The back of its head was covered with long, dark hair resembling a horse's mane. The arms were shaped like a human being's, except that the fingers of one hand were very long. The color of the skin was not unlike that of a human being. There is no doubt, that the mysterious stranger is what is known as a mermaid, and the first one ever seen in Cape Breton waters."
The Mermaid of Point Gray - 1890
A late 19th Century newspaper described how three local men in the Point Gray, BC area (where the University of BC is now) went out fishing with an native guide. They reportedly saw a mermaid with yellow hair and brown skin rise her upper body above the surface of the water, very close to their boat, and stare at them. The guide was quite upset by the sighting and told the men that it was a bad omen.
The "Dimpled" Mermaid of Active Pass - 1967
The most recent published Canadian mermaid sighting was in 1967 and written about in the Times Colonist newspaper. The creature was seen in the early evening by passengers on ferries, close to the west entrance to Active Pass. The Daily Colonist reported on the sighting the next day, and included a photograph that it said had been taken by a visitor from Sioux City, Iowa.
"Several witnesses said the mermaid had a large fish, apparently coho salmon, and one swore she had taken a bite out of it," the Colonist said on June 13, 1967. "Long, silver-blond hair and topless condition were generally agreed upon." The next day, the Colonist referred to her as a "dimpled mermaid," and said she had the lower body of a fish or porpoise. The newspaper said she had been at Helen Point, on the northwest corner of Mayne Island, and had been seen eating a large salmon.
"A Cobble Hill man who flew over the area shortly after 7 p.m. managed to get an aerial photograph which corresponded closely to a picture taken from the Queen of Saanich (ferry) by an Iowa visitor," the Colonist said. The aerial photograph, which was not published in the newspaper, apparently showed a silvery object on the rock beside the mermaid.
One male witness said that the mermaid was "a cute blond with dimples," and added "it was definitely a girl. Definitely." He said the mermaid seemed to enjoy the wake of the ferry washing over her. On June 15, the Colonist cranked it up a notch, reporting that a $25,000 reward would be offered for the "dimpled mermaid of Active Pass." The offer was made by Charles White of the Undersea Gardens, who added that a "panel of competent marine biologists" would have to confirm that the mermaid was the real thing. The newspaper reported one more sighting of the mermaid, at Cordova Bay more than a week later by a woman.
Unfortunately, the Times Colonist online archives only go back about 5 years, so no copies of these articles exist today. However, Mermaid Canada did manage to find portions of the original article, (in quotes above) and to locate a copy of the original photo. (also above)