"This monster is tall and of great size and rises straight out of the water. It has shoulders like a man's but no hands. It's body appears to grow narrower from the shoulders down, so that the lower down it has been observed the more slender it has seemed to be. But no-one has ever observed it closely enough to determine whether its body has scales like a fish or skin like a man. Whenever the monster has shown itself, men have always been sure that a storm would follow."
This ancient account describes perfectly the creature the Hoy fishermen encountered three times in 1913.
But what was it?
Creature of the deep or atmospheric phenomenon?
A recent study of atmospheric conditions may hold the answer and it could be that "Hoy Sea Woman" type sightings owe more to an optical illusion than to denizens of the sea.
The clues lie in the strange, elongated shape of the creature and the fact that storms generally followed their sightings. In the cold northern waters surrounding Orkney, the warmer air that precedes a storm mixes in a layer over the sea, creating a swirling mass of air. This vortex of air, constantly changing temperature, acts as a distorting lens that exaggerates the height of an object at sea level but not its width.
Seen through this distorting wall of air the top of a seal's head or even a rock can appear like the towering mermaid described in both accounts.
Ben-Varry or Dinny-Mara - Isle of Man
Mermaid Ceasg - Scottish highland
Merman Gwragedd Annwn - Lake Maidens of Welsh legends. Annwn is the Celtic underworld.
Liban - called sanctified Mermaid whose form is seen in carvings in Christian churches
Melusine - One of the most famous European Mermaids. She had a double tail.
Merrow - Irish Mermaids whose appearance was dreaded because it heralded the coming of storms