SEASON 1/EPISODE 4: Fathoms Below
Content Warnings: Animal death, animal eating habits, animal mating habits, animal violence, animal injury, the ocean, whales and other large oceanic creatures, death of sentient beings, sacrificial practices, funerary practices, mention of alcohol
EXT. DAY. LONG ISLAND SOUND.
Adventurous music plays.
The sound of a boat traveling along the ocean. There is the continuous flap of the boat hitting the waves and the sound of the engine roaring.
The crazy thing about humanity is that we still believe we have discovered all that there is to discover on Earth and that the next frontier is just beyond the stars. I mean, we’re still discovering new places and species. While we’ve managed to map out most of the world, we still have yet to scratch the surface of one location: the ocean. While the ocean makes up 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, humanity has only managed to explore five percent of the sea. Or, so, that’s what the internet says. Down in the ocean deep, we still have an approximate 95 percent left to explore. And you know what the crazy part is? That’s without the sight. There’s a whole other ocean no one has dared venture into. An ocean filled with the creatures we have heard of in stories for centuries. I mean, hell, I’m still trying to navigate what is actually myth or legend and what is actually real. So far… Many fae that I’ve met are more entertained by the idea of keeping me in the dark for fun than sitting down with me and a mythology book to point out just what is real and what isn’t. Today I’m heading out to document the migration pattern of the Northern Merpeople. We are out in the middle of the Long Island Sound on our way to meet Sand, a mermaid who has agreed to let us track their movements with a satellite beacon built within a bracelet. I’m… hoping they won’t mind that it’s just a giant hunk of plastic strapped down by velcro.
(To person driving boat)
Hey! Slow down one sec? Do you see that?
Oh! Right. Sorry. Hold on. I need to move my phone to see if I can capture these sounds.
We’ve just spotted a herd of New England Hippocampi. First documented in the Mediterranean as the creations of Poseidon, the greek god of the ocean and a patron of horses, they were said to pull his chariot. In fact, Poseidon’s relationship with horses was so strong that sailors would sacrifice horses to him in return for a safe voyage. In Greek mythology, there were two origins of the creation of the horse. The first was a dispute between Poseidon and Athena over who would become the godly patron of Athens. In one telling of the myth, Poseidon plunges his trident into the ground and out pops a spring of saltwater. In the other, Poseidon creates the horse. No matter how the myth is told, Athena presents Athens with the olive tree and wins their patronage. Another origin of the horse is that Poseidon fell in love with Demeter, the greek goddess of agriculture, and asked her how to win her favor. Demeter had absolutely no desire to get married to Poseidon, so she cooked up a plan to get rid of him. She asked him to build her the most beautiful animal on Earth and so he attempted to do so. While building what would become the horse, he made several test animals. One of those test subjects would become the Hippocampus, the sea horse. Not the cute tiny seahorse we know, but a sea horse. In fact, the word Hippocampus is derived from the Greek word, hippos, meaning “horse” and kampos, meaning “sea monster.” By the time Poseidon created the horse, he had forgotten entirely
about Demeter. Demeter’s such an intelligent badass for thinking up that scheme. Reminds
me of the time I asked a guy to get me a drink and I ran away into another bar. Please don’t judge.
Flynn laughs. The jumping slows.
Glad you didn’t pull that on me.
Alright, back to the Hippocampi. The New England Hippocampi grow up to 10 feet in height and up to 3,000 lbs. If you took a horse, gave it a mermaid tail and put fins where its
front legs would be, that is what a hippocampus would look like. The New England Hippocampus has grey and jet black scales over its body and a large dorsal fin running down its back. The grey and black scales transition into an electric blue and black, something that has a dazzling effect in person. The average Hippocampus will live between 25 and 30 years,
giving birth to at least fifteen children over the course of their lifetime. Like their far off relative the sea horse, the female of the species lays their egg within the male and the
male gives birth to the foal a year later. The foal is alive when it is born, the advantage of that being that the foal is then old enough to keep up with the migration pattern of the Hippocampus and is able to not be susceptible to predators. They travel in pods, like dolphins, over great distances. The New England Hippocampus will travel down from New England to Florida. Hippocampi are herbivores and fall prey to Killer Whales, Sharks, and Leviathans--
--As well as other predatory species.Hippocampi, like dolphins, have a long history of helping sailors in shipwrecks, as well as other animals in distress. I cannot imagine how cool it would be to be able to ride a Hippocampus. Many sea fae make use of the hippocampi, as well as other large sea creatures, because of their intelligence. They appear to show a great level of independent choice as an animal, as in the wild they have been seen playing with each
other as well as other species. We’ll allow for them to move on so that way we can catch up with the Northern Migration and drop the bracelet off with Sand.
Okay. I think they’re far enough away now. I think it’s alright to start up again.
Um. Yeah. Sure. How common are those? The Hippos.
I’m not sure. We’ve never gotten the chance to figure that out.
The boat starts. The boat moves through the waves again and whaps against it.
We’re moving to a specific point of the Long Island Sound I believe is for Merpeople to stock up on supplies and gather before heading South. Our presence has been approved by their leaders. The Northern Merpeople have a matriarchal system with often the eldest member
of the family taking responsibility for the group. In large collections of merpeople, there are multiple leaders making decisions. In this case, we will be meeting a group of five different families all traveling together South. The Northern Merpeople live near Greenland,
traveling back during the warmer months. It’s August now, so they’ll be making their way down the Atlantic Coast. The average lifespan of the Merperson is approximately 40 to 50
years, remaining active over the course of their life. They are omnivores, but their diet is mainly composed of fish and shellfish from what I can tell is left behind. Much of their way of life is still a mystery to me and to others in the field despite their large presence in the fae world and folklore. I would one day like to study their social habits and impact on the environment around them for a longer period of time. While the terrestrial fae do have ceremonies similar to those of humans, I would like to see if the merpeople have similar
traditions as well. One I would be particularly interested in seeing would be their funerary practices. Being nomadic in nature, I am curious as to what funerary practices they perform while traveling, if they have funerals at all.
That lighthouse the place?
Yeah! That’s right! Bring down the speed of the boat as much as you can!
The boat slows down and you can hear the waves move. Seagulls cry.
I presume the location was chosen due to being a visual landmark and that their migrational directions are based through such choices as well as celestial navigation. It’s only my sixth time meeting them in person and I didn’t see a star chart or what I could make out to be an
astrolabe. I’m presuming that they would have a navigator who has memorized the locations of stars in order to guide the groups in their travels. Or they just navigate based on instinct alone. It’s very hard to tell so far. Just like whales, when traveling in pods, merpeople communicate and socialize through clicks, whistles, and pulsed calls. We communicate with
them in sign language, taught to them by Dr. Bryant.
And… this is it?
Yeah. They’re all about 15 feet away from us. It’s a group of twenty.
Hold on. So… those are mermaids. Actually real mermaids.
I mean, technically, there are bunch of species that fall under that “idea” of what we could call a mermaid.
Don’t look at me like that. Yes, these are the Northern Merpeople.Okay, since you can’t see what we’re looking at. The Northern Merpeople are mammalian and need to come up for air in order to breath. They have no scales, their skin being like whales or dolphins. The Northern Merpeople have a pattern similar to that of the Killer Whale or the Hourglass Dolphin, with black skin on the dorsal side, or their back, and white skin on their ventral, the front side.
Hey. They’ve noticed us. Flynn, you mind taking a step back? I… Don’t know how they’d react to me being with someone.
Oh. Yeah. Sure. Didn’t take them for the jealous type.
Ha-ha. Oh, good. Sand’s coming first.
You hear splashing come closer and closer.
Hi! Is this for me?
(Signed) Thank you, Sand.
Sand has given me a bag made of what appears to be leather.
The bag’s contents clink and the bag drips as it comes on board.
Ha. Well, funnily enough, there are several human items in here. With modifications. There is a doll, hair shaven, and with a tail like that of a merperson. The bag also has… a comb made of bone, jewelry made from both natural and manmade materials, and some art. I’m going to leave that there for you Flynn. And a stone carving of… of-- is this me? Th-thank you, Sand.
That’s really sweet.
Oh-- Oh. Flynn, give me a sec. This photo’s of me and him. He’s with me. Hey, Flynn, come here. Slowly, please.
Now, wave. Okay, now hold out your hand.
Flynn laughs nervously.
Hello. It’s… nice to meet you. Her hand’s… So smooth.
Look, she’s studying you. Oh, yeah,
(Signed) His hair is different.
Sebastian grabs an item next to him. Sand chirps again.
I’m going to give her a watertight box with straps attached. Flynn drew portraits of the merpeople from the pictures I showed him.
Oh, tell them how you did that.
By… taping a sightstone to an iPhone. I… haven’t managed to find a sightstone large enough to go over a camera lens just yet.
I also included art supplies. I think they’ll like that.
I haven’t seen ifMerpeople prefer to make art above water or below. I am going to presume
that they have the knowledge to do both, but given that they need air to breath, it’s possible they will do so closer to land and to the surface.
Sebastian opens up the box. He takes out a hunk of plastic.
Alright… Here’s the bracelet.
Dr. Bryant explained. Alright, here you go. Yeah,
(Signed) Nice to see you again.
Nice to meet you too.
I’ll contact Dr. Bryant in South Carolina that the bracelet has been given to them. We both should have the information about their route as long as the bracelet stays with them.
Hey. Hey look.They’re… all waving goodbye to us.
Yeah… Yeah they are.
ADVENTUROUS MUSIC PLAYS INTO OUTRO.
END OF EPISODE.
ADVENTUROUS MUSIC PLAYS.
CREATURE FUN FACT: Marine biologist, Dr. Azalea Bryant, has dubbed the Northern Merpeople with the scientific name Hydriad borealis, while the only other confirmed species, in the Caribbean, is dubbed Hydriad caribea
The Viridian Wild is created, written, and produced by Davis Walden with creative consulting by Nicole Miller. Our music is composed by Daryl Banner. This episode features the voice of Davis Walden as Sebastian and Kyle Nishimura as Flynn. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as The Viridian Wild or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more and find transcripts of this episode at theviridianwild.com. We would like to thank our first Adventurers joining us on this journey: Joe and Mandy Walden. You can support Sebastian’s study of the magical world around us on our patreon at www.patreon.com/theviridianwild and gain access to bonus material such as bloopers and book recommendations. The Viridian Wild is a product of Always in My Head Productions. Till next time, happy trails!