So Mermaid Arcadia is an Australian variety mermaid who regularly swims with all kinds of luminous and possibly murderous ocean creatures along her country’s Great Barrier Reef, which is what Australian mermaids do to show off. Below I talk to her about her very obnoxious activities and I’m not just saying that because I’m currently in central Pennsylvania where today, for no reason at all, it hailed.
So how did you become a mermaid?
I’ve always been fascinated with mermaids and the underwater world since I was a child so the progression for me to gain my tail seemed like a natural one. In my mid-teenage years I felt a great pull to the mermaid world which led me to scouring the internet for books, pictures and videos. On this search, I stumbled across videos on Youtube of mermaids swimming with amazing tails like Mermaid Raven and Hannah Mermaid which inspired me to look into tails, monofins and other expensive items a teenager can’t really afford. Once I hit university I had the resources to get my first monofin, make my first tail and start swimming.
What are the advantages to being an Australian mermaid?
Australia has some of the best beaches in the world and its home to the great barrier reef which makes our marine environment spectacular. The diving in my area is amazing and if I’m not in my tail then I’m likely to be diving in Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay discovering shipwrecks, reefs or gorgeous sea creatures. I’ve come face to face with sharks, rays, octopi (including the deadly blue ringed octopus), seals, dolphins, cuttlefish, squid and so many other amazing creatures! Also it helps that most of our population lives in major cities close to the ocean so being a landlocked mermaid in Australia is much harder to be than in the middle of the US.
Can you tell me about your shark encounters?
I love sharks, I find them to be fascinating creatures that are horribly misunderstood by the vast majority of people. I think my first shark encounter was when I was snorkelling with some large sharks on the great barrier reef. Since then I’ve dived into two aquarium shark tanks, the largest colony of grey nurse sharks in Australia and even saw a banjo shark a couple weeks ago on a shallow dive. He was so calm that I managed to get really close and admire the gorgeous markings of his back while a mixture of snapper and batwing fish circled around us. Wobbigong sharks are also really common in my area but they don’t even really look like sharks at all, they look like oversized catfish. In all my encounters with sharks I’ve never once been bitten although I’ve had sharks come up and take a good look at me to make sure I wasn’t a tasty seal. Shark attacks are rare but are so hyped up because of films like Jaws that portray them as villains but in my experience, sea turtles are much more likely to come up and snap at you than a shark. Sea turtles can be vicious although people seem to think they’re much more peaceful than sharks, I have no idea why!
Would you say there’s a mermaid movement in Australia? Have you met with fellow mermaids, etc?
I’d say there is a worldwide mermaid movement which certainly can also be seen in Australia. When I started out mermaiding I did it with some like-minded friends and together we formed the group Mermaidens, which has been an amazing experience. Volitania and Nerissa are both very talented mermaids who inspire and support me to be the best mermaid I can be. We do most things together and while we haven’t really met too many other mermaids we all contribute on MerNetwork, a worldwide Mermaid forum.
Hannah Fraser started mermaiding in Australia. Has she (or any other prominent mermaids) been a big influence on you?
Hannah Fraser was a massive influence on me, her videos inspired me to get my first monofin and start swimming. I think most modern mermaids would say that she founded the mermaiding movement as we know it and in some way shaped them.
Another massive influence would be Mermaid Raven who not only makes amazing accessories and tails but is a true performer. I can’t think of another mermaid who embodies the grace and mystery of the mer when swimming more than she does. Mermaid Raina is also fantastic with her fun quirky nature (see her mermaids in winter video) who is very active in the MerNetwork community as well as a talented educator.
How do people react to you in public?
Normally people are really positive and want to take photos, ask questions and talk. The Mermaidens are often swamped with excited kids wanting to chat/play with us and so far we haven’t really had any negative reactions.Some adults even get more excited than their kids at seeing a real mermaid!
Sadly another local mermaid went and gave her story to the paper which then wasn’t expressed in a very positive light so she got a lot of negativity thrown at her.
What kinds of events do you do?
What do you think the appeal of mermaids is?
Mermaids represent the unknown, there is so much of the ocean waiting to be discovered, explored and enjoyed. We can only ever see a tiny portion of it which lends to question: what lies beneath? Was that tail a fish or was it something else?
What kind of a message do you have, as a mermaid?
The ocean is an amazing place that deserves reverence but humans pollute and destroy it. I was swimming with grey nurse shark a couple years ago and I saw the most heartbreaking thing, a majestic grey nurse with a giant hook through the side of its mouth. Grey nurse sharks not only endangered but harmless to humans and an important part of the ecosystem. We need support our environment before we create a world with an environment that can not support us.
Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Swim. Start swimming so you can feel comfortable in the water and a strong swimming ability because someday you might be lucky enough to get a tail of your very own. There are great resources around for aspiring mermaids such as MerNetwork so do your research because there are lots of fellow mermaids to help you. Other than that don’t be afraid to pursue what makes you happy because life is too short to be too scared to try it.