Lost Sea Captain’s Diary Tells of Encounter with ‘Mermaid’

The only known image of Captain Francois Du Pragu.

KEY WEST, FL-  A diary over three-hundred years old was discovered in Key West, Florida recently during preparations for an antique auction.  The manuscript was noticed by appraiser Mark Johnson, rolled up inside the secret compartment of a wooden leg.

“No one knows where the leg came from, but this manuscript is priceless,” said Johnson.

Though most of the diary describes a fairly mundane trans-Atlantic journey, the last entry gives what some call a “shocking account” of the author Captain Francois Du Pragu’s first encounter with what is presumably a Sea Cow, or Manatee, off the coast of present-day Florida.

Below is an excerpt from diary of Captain Francois Du Pragu, 1693.

We sighted land after sixty days of arduous travel. The voyage had been taxing both mentally and physically, and most of the men, myself included, were joyous to have arrived at last on the shores of the New World.

‘Twas a passing lovely coast and a bright, sunny day. I took some men on a skiff to the shallows to investigate the shore more closely. One of the men spied something in the water: a great beast floating by beneath the boat. Being that the water was particularly clear I could see it well. It was rounded, as a giant bean, with a pair of small flippers protruding and a fat, webbed tail. Dark, muddled skin covered it and ’twas hairless save for a few whiskers on its dog-like snout. I called for the men to net the beast forthwith. We pursued until it floated near the surface. The net was cast and we hauled in the behemoth, which fought with great effort. I could see that it had no teeth or claws of which to speak; hence, I was not afraid. What a fascinating thing it was…I ordered the men to hoist it onto the ship for examination.

On board the rest of the crew was most excited to see the strange beast.

I, too, was very happy, having not only found shore that day but having captured this oddity as well. I called for celebration. The men were allowed to haul the reserves of beer and wine from the stores and the violinist was ordered to start playing.

The men danced and drank merrily. I sat, watching the beast flip about on the deck. I know not by what motive, but I liked this animal. It delighted meso, after such a long journey, to have found on a sudden such a lively creature and strange. The music continued, and the men began to sing and to roister with increasing abandon. Suddenly, the beast threw itself across the deck, flailing about before coming to rest once more. Something in its movements struck me. How charming it was, how futile, and yet so…alive.

The now-endangered Manatee.

I told my first mate to have the beast taken to my quarters.

From my room I could hear the merriment of the men and the music playing until long after sunset. It was a calm night and the ship rocked very gently to and fro. I sat across the room from the beast, watching it and taking an occasional swig of wine.

Suddenly I fancied dressing it up. I found a gown in my trunk which belonged to my departed sister, and I set about bedecking the beast.

At first it thrashed about violently when I approached too closely, but seemed to be pacified when I softly put my hand upon its great, fat back. I unbuttoned the gown and laid it out closely on the floor. Then I carefully rolled the beast on top, pulled the gown tight and re-fastened it. The fit was rather close, but happily my sister had herself been of great girth.

I needed something more…hair. The beast must have hair resembling that of a lady. I went out to the deck and retrieved the deck mop. The ill-favored brown material did not suffice, and so I scrimmaged about and discovered some red paint in the storage room and with this I transformed the mop head into a beautiful wig. Using some melted wax I managed to paste the wig onto the beast’s head.

The men had long since gone to sleep. I sat a while more, observing the creature which I had adorned so nicely. Henceforth I thought of it as a beast no more. I imagined the thing before me was in fact a stranger, simply a person from another land. People from this land favor a prostrate position rather than to sit or stand, I decided. They also do not appear as myself or anyone whom I know. The language of this person was unknown to me; however, we understood each other through instinct. Lastly, I decided that this stranger whom I was receiving in my quarters was, in fact, a lady.

All these things being understood to me, I sat slouched in my seat…staring at her and occasionally taking a swig of wine. The night lolled on steadily as my gaze remained fixed on her dark figure. The creaking of the ship’s timbers began to evoke a strange sonata in my head. I slid to the floor.

Slowly I crawled toward her on hands and knees. As I neared, her eyes looked into mine once…then again…and then once more! Mine own eyes were wild with exultation. Finally, my will overcame my cowardice and I addressed her, my voice cracking and affected with emotion, “Do you wish to possess my love this night, my lady?”

“Yes,” her eyes suddenly spoke to me and to no one else! I threw myself upon her…

* * *

In the early morning, just before daybreak, I rolled the lady out of my chamber and precipitated her down from the deck. She hit the water with a loud splash and startled the sleepy night watchman to wakefulness. Sitting up, he was startled yet again to see me standing nearby.

“Captain?! What was that?” he asked.

“Our guest took ill last night and has passed away, I’m afraid. I was just disposing of her body.”

The watchman nodded his head but was clearly confused. “Which guest was that, Captain?”

“We met her in the shallows last afternoon, remember? The native woman,” I replied.

“Do you mean the sea beast?” he said.

“Not a beast but a lady, man! She partook of my love last night but took ill and has died!”

The watchman sat stunned for a moment as I gazed silently at the rising sun.

Not able to assuage his curiosity, he turned to me once more. “Ohhh. The lady…Yes…Did she have tits, Captain?”

“She had the finest tits I have ever seen! And the most beautiful flowing hair as well!” I rebuked him for his disrespectful tone.

In the distance I could see her bloated brown body bobbing softly up and down as it drifted back onto the reef. A gull lit upon it for a moment before betaking itself to flight again. The watchman stood near still, pondering what I had told him. Before he could once more question me I sternly addressed him, “Do you not know of the beautiful women who inhabit these waters, who have the tail of a fish but the body of the fairest maiden a sailor will ever lay eyes upon?! To share their love is a heavenly delight!”

He stood at attention at once and answered with wide eyes, “My apologies for mine ignorance, Captain!”

Since that night, increasingly have I heard stories of encounters with ‘Mermaids’, as they have come to be called, and believe my own actions may be to blame. May this manuscript lay to rest the myth and aid the legacy of truth upon which this great colony of France shall be built.

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