First-Place "Scientific or Not?" Essay Contest Winner

Under the Sea

By Genna Greenberger

In Walt Disney’s "The Little Mermaid," many mermaids swim throughout the deepest depths of the bluest oceans. They glide along the colorful coral and swim with dolphins at the bottom of the ocean. According to Sebastian the Crab, life is better "under the sea." This may be true for some sea life, but not for mermaids. At the bottom of the oceans, mermaids should implode from water pressure, making "The Little Mermaid" scientifically impossible.

One major issue facing marine biologists is the inability to reach the bottom of the ocean. This also should affect the mermaids in "The Little Mermaid." Ariel seems to have no crushed bones or compressed organs when she glides along the sea floor. Assuming she has a human skeletal system, there is no way she can swim to the bottom of the sea, where 33 feet of water creates the same amount of pressure as 1.5 million feet of air. The human body is accustomed to ~14.7 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure at the Earth’s surface. Water is 800 times denser than air, so Ariel couldn’t travel to the bottom of the ocean. The only way this would be possible is if her body was more "watery" so she could acclimate to the additional pressure.

At a depth of 1,000 feet, the water pressure is 400 psi. Scuba divers can only dive to a depth of 200 feet, so there is no way a mermaid could swim to the bottom of the sea. Most seas have an average depth of more than 200 feet.[1] The water pressure would be too great for Ariel, her family and all of the other mermaids to live at the bottom of the sea.

The water pressure would be too heavy for most of her sea friends, too. For example, Sebastian the Crab couldn’t live on the bottom of the sea, either. Sebastian’s crustaceous exoskeleton would snap and be crushed under the water pressure that far down. His skeleton would last longer than that of the mermaids, but it would still be crushed under the extremely high water pressure. Also, unless the fish adapted to a lack of light and the water pressure, they would not be able to survive.

The higher the amount of water in a body, the more pressure a body can withstand. The mermaids’ friends would have to become more "watery." To gain this trait could take thousands of years of evolution.

In conclusion, "The Little Mermaid" is scientifically impossible not only because mermaids do not exist, but also because it would be nearly impossible to find most of Ariel’s friends that far under the sea. The extreme water pressure crushes thin-boned or "dry" animals.

[1] Floating Classroom, "Don’t Pressure Me! Air & Water Pressure," June 2006. Retrieved on May 31, 2007 from: