The Deerness mermaid
Probably the most famous of the mermaid sightings in Orkney took place over a few summers around 1890.
At this time there were a series of sightings of a "creature" that came to be known as "the Deerness Mermaid".
A regular visitor to Newark Bay in Deerness, the mermaid went on to achieve considerable fame, with hundreds of eyewitnesses swearing to the validity of their encounters. From documented reports, it appears that the mermaid stayed some distance from the shore, so exact details are vague.
But one account does provide a good description of a sighting and, as you will see, it was a far cry from the archetypal storybook mermaid:
"It is about six to seven feet in length, has a little black head, with neck, a snow white body and two arms, and in swimming it just appears like a human being. At times it will appear to be siding on a sunken rock, and will wave and work its hands."
The Hoy sea woman
Another mermaid encounter was reported in 1913, and detailed multiple sightings of a "mermaid" in the deep waters off the south-eastern coast of Hoy.
In this case, the crew of a Longhope fishing boat, at the creels by the Old Man o' Hoy, claimed they had witnessed a mermaid rising from the waters of the Pentland Firth.
The creature, they said, rose to a height of three feet above the waves and was "like a lady with a shawl draped around her shoulders".
In total, they saw the mysterious sea-woman three times, although the account makes no mention as to whether she frequented the same stretch of water, or whether the encounters had taken place in different locations.
The King's Mirror
What is intriguing about the Hoy mermaid account is the similarity between it and a medieval Norse text called The King's Mirror.
In this text, the author gives a description of a merman encounter at sea:
"This monster is tall and of great size and rises straight out of the water. It has shoulders like a man's but no hands. It's body appears to grow narrower from the shoulders down, so that the lower down it has been observed the more slender it has seemed to be.
"But no-one has ever observed it closely enough to determine whether its body has scales like a fish or skin like a man. Whenever the monster has shown itself, men have always been sure that a storm would follow."
This ancient account describes perfectly the creature the Hoy fishermen encountered three times in 1913. But what was it?