A professional mermaid uses her fins to make a difference.
Underwater, the world seems perfect. Moving in sync, each creature does its part to keep the ecosystem alive and flourishing. There is one creature, however, that stands out. She moves along the ocean floor like a wave, swimming next to manta rays and turtles. Arms stretched ahead to cut through the water as her long blond hair streams behind, Hannah Fraser looks just like a stereotypical mermaid. As she passes by a rock, light from the surface dapples her vivid aquamarine tail. Half woman and half fish, this creature existed only in legends — until now.
Fraser is one of a handful of people in the world who can call herself a professional mermaid. An underwater model and ocean conservationist, she makes swimming through the water look easy with her tail. Many who spot her from the shore believe they’ve seen a real mermaid.
Fraser travels the world, performing at various events and peaceful protests. “I feel complete freedom in the water,” she says. “[I’m] definitely more comfortable there than [on] land; the weightless feeling feels like my natural state of being.”
Like many little girls, Fraser’s obsession with mermaids began at a young age. After she saw the movie “Splash,” which features Daryl Hannah as its mermaid protagonist, she decided she wanted be a mermaid, too. At the age of nine, she made her first tail out of an orange tablecloth with pillow stuffing inside. Fraser continued to make tails as she grew older, and in 2003 she made her first functional tail out of the wetsuit material neoprene. She constructed the fin out of flippers, duct tape, coat hangers, and a boomerang. Fraser tweaked her tails until she found the winning formula, which included a handmade monofin made of polyethylene plastic.
Fraser has so far created eight tails. She says that when she swims, her tail feels like an extension of her actual body.
“I like to create beauty and bring fantasy and mythology to life,” Fraser says. “I like to see things that are out of the box, that push boundaries and bring a sense of child-like wonder and awe to our existence.”
Before becoming a professional mermaid, Fraser had to learn to hold her breath underwater for long periods of time. Currently, Fraser can hold her breath for a little more than two minutes, and can free-dive more than forty feet. She takes yoga, belly dancing, and gymnastics classes to improve her lung capacity and flexibility, and hopes that in the future she’ll be able to hold her breath underwater for at least five minutes.
Growing up, Fraser straddled two very different worlds. Although she was originally born in England, throughout her childhood she traveled back and forth between India and Australia. “I feel that [traveling] gave me a broader sense of humanity, more acceptance for different expressions in life, and a belief that variety was the spice of life,” Fraser says.
Alternating between these two very different cultures inspired her to use her tail to raise awareness for environmental conservation efforts.
“The rubbish and destruction, shanty towns, and pollution had a large impact on me,” Fraser says.
She began participating in various rallies to protect the environment, and it was during a protest to stop the development of an estuary that she first wore her mermaid tail, incorporating two of her passions into a single cause.
“When I had the chance to swim with whales and dolphins as a mermaid, I decided to focus all my attention on helping these species,” Fraser says.
Fraser sees firsthand the damaging effects humans can have on marine ecosystems when she swims in the ocean. In 2007 she and a group of surfers and celebrities traveled to Japan to protest the slaughter of dolphins and whales in Taiji Bay. Wearing her tail, Fraser swam out into the ocean with other protestors and joined hands to demonstrate their solidarity.
During the protest, Fraser was overcome with emotion. “I remember diving to the bottom of the bay and feeling what it would be like as dolphin in fear of its life as a fisherman stabbed me from above,” she says.
Fraser continues to work with various ecological projects to raise awareness about issues facing the world’s oceans. She hopes the work she does to defend the environment encourages others to do the same. “I hope that the world is inspired to make massive changes to stop ocean pollution, overfishing, and killing cetaceans, and to protect and nurture our precious resource of the ocean,” Fraser says.
Fraser performed at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas each month last year, swimming with sharks, giant manta rays, and various sea creatures to support the company’s ocean education programs. She has new plans for 2012, including her first kids’ mermaid photo book launch on Malibu beach, performing at some of the largest dance festivals in the US in giant aquariums, and working to build content for her own Fraser Mermaid series. When she isn’t working, Fraser enjoys traveling to oceans in Tonga, Fiji, and Hawaii so she can swim in complete freedom with the most awe-inspiring animals, particularly humpback whales and sharks.
While Fraser’s fins are made of plastic, she believes real mermaids do exist: “The mermaid myth is so prevalent all around the world in so many different, unrelated cultures that I can’t help but believe it is based in some sort of truth.”