The Florida Manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, is a large, slow-moving marine mammal with an elongated, round body and paddle-shaped flippers and tail. Manatees are herbivores, feeding solely on sea grass, algae and other vegetation in freshwater and estuarine systems in the southeastern United States. Florida manatees can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts during summer months, but during the winter, manatees congregate in Florida, as they require warm-water habitats to survive. The tour guide on the glass bottomed boat read from his well worn card. It was December and near Christmas and the tourist trade was booming.
The tour boat motoring in Tampa Bay would soon be close to the Tampa Power Plant where warm waters flowed. Their chance of seeing Manatees were excellent. Tiny Water Nymphs, Nixie, Nada and Narissa sat on a rail in the ceiling of the boat. They were given great responsibility for their young ages. They were responsible to provide information to Asherah, Sea Goddess who portrayed a mothering deity to sea creatures and who saved them from possible impending danger within her domain. This was not an easy task as Haff a contrary evil sea God could bring about high waves and lightening causing a disruption and distraction to the sea spirits who maintained the equilibrium of the waters and guided boaters safely to port. The spirits could guide but could not affect the freewill of humans. Haff and his brothers who controlled the hurricanes and cyclones took great pleasure in wrecking havoc upon the coastal shoreline seeing how far they could plunder inland.
The water Nymphs reached Asherah camouflaged in towering cumulonimbus clouds. Gem like raindrops bejeweled Asherah’s sateen azure skin. Her white hair floated with the white billowing clouds. “Come, come my little nymphettes and tell me of your news.” The Nymphs had to beat their wings extra fast in the humidity of the clouds. “Supreme Goddess there is a possible threat to the Manatees as they migrate to the warm waters at the edge of the shore line near the loud puffing structure.” Narissa stated. Nada added “The Manatees are in the more shallow waters and the boat full of humans is moving very slowing attempting to gain a view of the Manatees in the hard water floor that the humans look through. “ Nixie excitedly said. “The whirling creature on back of the boat is too close to the Manatees and could hurt them if it comes over them!” “Also, there are many other boats today going back and forth.”
Asherah, took in the information and decided quickly to contact the Water Lady, Goddess Yara. who could provide benevolent water spirits and also mermaids. Along with Asherah’s water spirits and Yara’s water spirits they should be able to contain the groups of Manatees and get them safely into deeper waters and into the warm water around the power plant where there was lush vegetation. Asherah and the Flaming red haired Yara from her multidimensional ocean cave joined together and summoned the water spirits. They chanted “Oh come, Oh come spirits of the sea, Oh come, Oh come to thee” As they chanted what appeared to be a mist or a fog appeared over the bay. The mist teemed and churned within itself and before anyone knew it the mist suddenly dropped into the ocean and formed a iridescent cocoon around the groups of Manatees who were languidly swimming along.
Then the two Goddess’ Asherah and Yara looked across the ocean and coming toward them were two narrow vortex’ of water and mist. Some of the humans in the tour boat exclaimed “Look there are two water spouts! And “Aren’t they tornadoes?” Suddenly the two spouts just dissipated and water fell into the ocean. What the humans did not see fall from the water spouts were Nerida and Serela, two mermaids who had also been summoned to assist the Manatees. Asherah told the two mermaids to swim down to the groups of Manatees that were surrounded by spirits at this time and move the groups intact with spirit cocoon gently to deeper waters. The mermaids had to be mindful that Manatees could only stay under water 15 minutes before they needed to surface for air.
Just when Nerida and Serela were getting operations underway with moving the Manatees they heard a loud crashing sound and a boom. “Oh no,” They thought simultaneously. Their concern was warranted. Off in the distant bolts of lightning was striking down and the clouds had turned dark grey. Haff angrily screamed at Asherah. “Get out of my ocean!” He continued to thunder and lightning. Asherah confidently stated “You know very well Haff that Tampa Bay is part of my territory.” Haff screamed again “There’s no such thing as your territory!” “Then why can’t you come any closer” Asherah said to Haff who was about five kilometers away. “Because I don’t want to” Haff said childishly. “But, I can do this!” Haff, blew a strong wind gust and slapped the water with his hand. The waves became about two feet high and very choppy on the surface. Asherah knew Haff had a short attention span and if he couldn’t get a rise out of her he would move on and try to terrorize someone else. Haff grumbled and began walking toward an ocean liner out on the horizon.
The spirits and the mermaids around the tour boat held everything steady so it was not affected as much. The tour boat was right over the top of a group of Manatees. It was a large group of Manatees. Nerida and Serela must not be seen by the humans in the glass bottom boat. What the Nymphs called the hard water floor. The water was shallow and they did not want to be seen by someone looking overboard. So they were going to need to guide the groups of Manatee from underneath of them. At one time in history sailors had mistaken Manatees for mermaids. Sightings of Manatees mistaken for mermaids have been recorded as early as Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas—in fact, he said that they were “not so beautiful as they are said to be, for their faces had some masculine traits.” Well that’s no wonder… they weren’t mermaids at all! From a small distance, one might take this as a mermaid or siren beckoning or saying hello.” These creatures’ ability to rotate their heads might also allow them to pass for humans from far enough away. Nerida and Serela had heard this story all of their lives.
Nerida slipped under a Manatee on one side while Serela did on the other side. Serela’s Manatee was near the propeller blades of the boat engine. This was dangerous for herself and the Manatee. The one thousand pound creature said to her “That tickles little lady!” The Manatee talking startled Serela. She explained to him what she was about to do. Nerida and Serela gave each other signals to place their hands flat on the bellies of the outer Manatees. The spirits were still in a ring around the group keeping the Manatees together. They needed to move the talking Manatee towards the bow of the boat away from the propeller blades of the boat engine while Serela moved her outer Manatee toward the bow too. They were shifting the entire group over and away from the propellers but they had to worry about putting the group of Manatees in front of the boat to be hit so they needed to take them a little deeper and push them starboard, right side of the boat without revealing themselves . Upon Serela’s signal they pushed the group starboard and out from under the boat.
The talking Manatee said “Need some air little lady.” Serela knew they all needed some air but with her and Nerida’s last breath they needed to push the group farther away. Manatees typically swim about five mile per hour but can go up to fifteen mile per hour for short bursts. As if they heard, the spirits began to circle faster and faster around the group and move into the deep water almost to the power plant and away from the tour boat by considerable distance. The Manatees stuck their noses out of the water for breathes of fresh air. Nerida and Serela stuck their heads out of the water for air as well. They could already feel the water warmer from the power plant. The spirits came out of the water and away from the circle they had formed around the Manatees one by one and dissipated into the sunset. The Manatees began to swim the rest of the way to the vegetation against the shores and under the water of the mooring of the power plant. This would be their winter home. There were also estuaries for plenty of food for their vegetarian appetites.
Nixie, Nada and Narissa in their tiny silky dresses made from flower buds flew around Nerida and Serela clapping and cheering. The Nymphettes told Nerida and Serela that the Sea Goddesses, Asherah and Yara wanted to see them right away. The mermaids did not know what it could be about. “Oh, Supreme Goddesses of the Sea we seek your council as requested.” Nerida and Serela said with a little trepidation. Goddesses Asherah and Yara appeared in the sunset’s brilliant orange and pink sky above Nerida and Serela. “We would like to commend you Nerida and Serela for saving the Manatees of Florida. Thank you and for this we would like to honor you with this Manatee pearl necklaces and one wish of your choosing. Think carefully before you make a wish. Nerida said “I wish for unpolluted water on Earth.” Serela said “I wish that no being on Earth will ever go hungry.” Asherah and Yara nodded at each other and smiled broadly. Asherah stated “You both have chosen wisely.” Go in peace and with our blessings.
Manatees are protected under the Endangered Species Act and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Today, the range-wide population is estimated to be at least 13,000 manatees worldwide, with more than 6,500 in the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico.