Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 16th, 2008
From Curious Encounters, Faber and Faber, 1985.
In recent years, Merbeings have taken on the appearance of Lizardpeople, as above, and the Merman and Mermaid roots in the sightings seemed to have been fading.
Most reports of Merbeings generally seem to be from over a hundred years ago or are lost in the fog of folktales and legends.
But that can all change in an instant. Coming to us from South Africa, from the weekend of January 12-13, 2008, is a new sighting of a more traditional Merwoman, indeed, a nearly classic Mermaid.
Herald reporter Aldo Pekeur details the breaking new incident:
It may have been a case of too many magic mushrooms in the potjie, but a group of friends enjoying a braai on the banks of the Buffelsjags River at Suurbraak, a village close to Swellendam in the Western Cape, have reported spotting a legendary mermaid-like creature, known locally as the Kaaiman.
And the town’s tourism bureau is taking the claims seriously.
According to legend, the last sighting of the Kaaiman was about 15 years ago, with it previously being spotted more than 20 years before that.
Suurbraak resident Daniel Cupido said he and a group of friends were relaxing next to the river last weekend when, at about 11.30pm, he heard something which sounded like someone “bashing on a wall.”
Cupido walked toward the sound. At a nearby low water bridge, he said he saw a figure, “like that of a white woman with long black hair thrashing about in the water.”
Thinking to save her, he waded toward her, but said he stopped in his tracks when he noticed a reddish shine in her eyes. The sight sent “shivers” down his spine, yet he was pulled forward as if hypnotised.
He called for his child, Deidrian, 13, and his nephew, Werner Plaatjies, 11, to help him, breaking his trance. He then shouted to his friends to take a look as well. Martin Olckers said he saw a female figure swimming, first on one side of the low water bridge, then on the other, and then standing on the bridge before diving back into the black water.
He said the figure made “the strangest sound”, like a woman crying. His mother, Dina, said the figure sounded so sorrowful “my heart could take it no more”. Her husband Martinus said their parents had warned them about the Kaaiman, but they never believed it existed.
The Kaaiman is described as a half human, half fish creature which lives in deep pools. It is white and has long black hair and red eyes.
Some people hold the Kaaiman responsible for drownings.
Suurbraak tourism officer Maggy Jantjies said she knew the people who saw the Kaaiman well, and that they did not misuse alcohol. by Aldo Pekeur, “Sighting of legendary river mermaid in Western Cape,” Herald, West Cape News, South Africa, January 15, 2008.
For completeness, it must be noted that “Kaaiman” happens to be a German word for caiman, a crocodilian.
This is what the tourist bureau locally has to say about this location:
Suurbraak, “A Place called Paradise” is a quaint village, nestled amongst streams of running water and sheltered by giant oaks, situated 19 km east of Swellendam, 10 km off the N2. The traveler encounters the town unexpectedly along the Tradouws River at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains. It lies about 5 km west of the majestic Tradouws Pass, on route between Swellendam, Barrydale and Heidelberg. The village is well worth a visit for tourists who wish to explore.
This traditional settlement drew the interests of the missionaries. It was established as a mission station in 1812 by the London Mission Society and later in 1875, taken over by the Algemeende Sending Kerk. In 1880 the Anglican church and school was built as a result of a split in the congregation. Community involvement in the church remains strong. The buildings of the village tell the story of its history. The first church, the parsonage and school, together with the old houses and buildings around the village square have been restored and are in use, as well as the Anglican church building. All are situated on the main road through the town.
The isolation of Suurbraak is one of its charms and limits the financial resources of the people. Many still cook on wood stoves, using an abundance of alien vegetation that grows in this area. The people live close to the land using farming methods that belong to the past. The smaller farms are still ploughed using horse drawn ploughs. Agricultural work is often done manually. Many households own at least one cow and some horses. Horse and donkey drawn carts are often seen here on the streets.
The village is well worth visiting on day trips. The mountains are rich in fynbos and bird life and cattle paths act as mountain trails for hikers and mountain bikers alike.
Community guides are available for village walks and mountain hikes. There are basic braai facilities alongside the river with spectacular pools. The riverine areas offer great bird-watching opportunities.
A photograph from the tiny mission village of Suurbraak.
(Thanks to T. Peter Park for forwarding this news item.)