Sunday, January 06, 2008

Weeki Wachee

Click for Larger Image of Cyprus in RiverIn 1947 a man named Newton Perry opened the Weeki Wachee spring to tourists. The spring is so deep that the bottom has not yet been found; the water is crystal clear and almost entirely composed of fresh water; and the temperature is always a swimable 74 degrees. 64 million gallons of water surge from the spring each day to form the Weeki Wachee River (first photo). Eight miles later it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Click for Larger Image of Great Blue Heron and NestPerry looked at the clear, deep spring and saw opportunity -- the site, he reasoned, was perfect for an underwater show. He had been a Navy Frogman, and quickly discovered that a person could use a pressurized air hose to breath underwater. He built the underwater theater that would allow the visitors to look through a glass window and see the shows performed 16 feet under the surface. And then he hired mermaids.

The air hoses allowed them to stay underwater for long periods of time as they performed choreographed dances, drank soft drinks, and even ate bananas. They also helped with the advertising -- when not in the water, they would run to the street -- in their bathing suits -- and "lure" cars to Weeki Wachee.

Click for Larger Image of Mermaid Drinking SodaI had heard, off and on, about the Mermaids of Weeki Wachee, so I decided to go see them. While I was waiting for the show to start, I took a very nice half-hour boat trip on the river that flows from the spring. The river was so clear that it was very difficult to tell how deep it was. We saw great blue herons (see image of heron with nest), lesser herons, pelicans, turtles, ducks, and lots of fish.

When I sat down to see the Mermaid show, I started chatting with the woman next to me who was there to see her daughter swim in the show. It turned out that she, too, had been a Mermaid. Since the spring where the Mermaids perform is open to the river, fish or animals can swim in. She told me that once when she was in the water an alligator joined them! He didn't threaten anyone, but they sensibly cut their number short and got out.

click for Larger Image of Mermaid and ManateesThe first picture here is one of today's Mermaids drinking the traditional soft drink underwater. The second one is one of the Mermaids during the show -- but look to the upper left of this picture (click for a larger version) and you will see two manatees that swam into the spring and joined the show. It was ironic -- the mermaid legends are thought to have begun when sailors spotted manatees and mistook them for the half-woman half-fish of legend. They must have been at sea a long time!



I thought that place had closed down.

O. B. Sirius said...

They had some rough times and came close to closing down -- but they had a big "Save Our Tails" campaign that must have worked. I don't think they're out of the woods, so to speak, but they are obviously open.