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Santa Barbara Maritime Museum Presents Mermaid Sightings in the Harbor A Unique Mermaid Event for All Ages!

Santa Barbara, CA. October 15, 2021 – In conjunction with the opening of its upcoming exhibit, Mermaids: Visualizing the Myths & Legends Photography by Ralph A. Clevenger and friends, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is presenting a unique mermaid sighting event. On Saturday, November 13, 2021, from 11:30 am-2 pm, the public is invited to meet mermaids in the Harbor, have their pictures taken with these legends, and view the new exhibit. This event is generously sponsored by Mary and Chuck Wilson.

Members of the public will be able to sign up for one of two outdoor photography sessions—the first from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm and the second from 1 pm-2 pm. Photography appointments must be made in advance and each appointment may include up to a maximum of four people per photograph. More than four people will require a second appointment. The fees for each appointment are $10 for members and $30 for non-members, which includes admission to the museum for the day. Appointments can be scheduled online at

Mermaids: The origins of the myth Thousands of years ago, the Assyrian goddess of the sea, Atargatis, transformed herself into a mermaid by flinging herself into a lake. She emerged with the lower body of a fish and the upper body of a human. Ever since, mermaids and mermen have captivated the imaginations of people and cultures around the world, including Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the West, the idea of mermaids may have been influenced by the sirens in Greek Mythology. A popular subject of art and literature, they have also been the subject of operas, comics, animation, and live action films. Not least of all, mermaids are a definite favorite of many children, so all ages will enjoy the exhibit and the Mermaid Sightings event.

How this exhibit came to be
Mermaid image by Liz Grady

Most of the 16 images displayed in the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum’s gallery exhibit—Visualizing the Myths & Legends—were part of an underwater photography course Ralph Clevenger taught at Brooks Institute. Each summer students in the class would spend several days living on a dive boat off the Channel Islands where they would work on their assignments. He would invite professional mermaids to join the class on the boat and work with the students, creating portraits, visual stories, and conceptual images for their final class portfolios.

In Ralph’s own words, as the students worked, the models faced a number of difficulties: There is no question about how hard the mermaids worked for these images. Wearing cloth-covered monofin tails or silicone molded tails they could swim farther and faster than any of us. While students wore wetsuits in the cool 70° water, the mermaids were nearly naked, spending upwards of thirty minutes in the water at a time during a photo shoot.” Further, Clevenger said, “The models had to hold their breath and repeatedly dive down, release their breath, so their face looked natural, pose gracefully, then return to the surface. They did this over and over, all day long.” And on November 13, the mermaids will be in Santa Barbara to celebrate the opening of the new exhibit and to answer questions about the life of merfolk.

Ralph with a mermaid by Madeleine Rose

Ralph A. Clevenger grew up on the coast of North Africa and began diving with his father in the Mediterranean Sea at the age of 7. He went on to study zoology and worked for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego as a diver/biologist before attending Brooks Institute of Photography. Clevenger was a senior faculty member at the Brooks Institute for 33 years, teaching courses in Natural History and Underwater Photography, among other photo and video courses.

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Since 2000, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum has featured many artifacts and stories to share the history of the Santa Barbara Channel with more than 40,000 visitors annually and provides year-round experiential maritime history and marine science education for local youth. Featuring the impressive First-Order Fresnel Lighthouse Lens from Point Conception, SBMM’s permanent exhibits include a collection of Dwight Brooks’ working ship models, a children’s gallery, History of Oil in Santa Barbara Channel, the Honda Disaster, and Wives and Daughters: Keepers of the Light.

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Maybe there's a happy little waterfall happening over here. A little happy sunlight shining through there. Take your time. Speed will come later. God gave you this gift of imagination. Use it. Once you learn the technique, ohhh! Turn you loose on the world; you become a tiger. Work on one thing at a time.