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  • This is not an artificial swimming pool,

  • and it's not filled with chlorinated, treated water.

  • This is a natural spring in Weeki Wachee, Florida.

  • And it's at the top of a massive system of caverns,

  • where the Weeki Wachee River surfaces.

  • Hundreds of millions of litres of water

  • forcing its way out the ground every day.

  • But while the spring might be natural,

  • what's going on under the surface definitely isn't.

  • It's created by humans, because for more than 70 years,

  • there's been a mermaid show here.

  • - Toughest part of the job, I definitely think, is training.

  • Took me about six months to swim my first show.

  • Once you get hired, you get scuba certified

  • and then you can start on the hose, which --

  • that's the process that takes the longest.

  • Learning how to breathe and be comfortable down there.

  • It takes a lot of breath control and building your lungs.

  • Teaching your lungs and stretching them and getting them used to holding the air.

  • The longest we hold our breath here is the Ferris wheel.

  • That's when we hold each other and we spin around.

  • The water is 74.2° year-round. It's very cold being in there.

  • - We have approximately 20-25 young women on staff

  • who perform as mermaids.

  • We also have about three or four gentlemen

  • that play the role of the prince in our version of The Little Mermaid.

  • - This place is the work of a man called Newt Perry,

  • world class swimmer and swimming coach,

  • former diver for the U.S. Navy, and consultant to Hollywood.

  • He looked at this spring and thought,

  • "I could put a show on in there".

  • The first theatre had 18 seats, but by the sixties,

  • the ABC television network had bought the place,

  • and built a theatre for 400. And it was selling out.

  • - Well, 117 million gallons of water

  • coming from a very tiny opening at the bottom of the spring on a daily basis

  • will provide a current, and it's about a 5mph current.

  • They're not swimming in a tank.

  • There's so many different species of wildlife that inhabit a Florida river, we get 'em all.

  • Turtles, otters, the manatees are always a favourite.

  • - The turtles love to get in the way,

  • and they'll follow your tail around.

  • We don't really have snakes come that often.

  • Every once in a while, blue moon.

  • And then sometimes we'll get alligators.

  • If they're in a range that's too close,

  • we'll get out of the water.

  • - In the 60s, Weeki Wachee was a spectacular, world-famous tourist attraction.

  • But by the 90s, the consensus was that is was a relic.

  • Dated and down on its luck, at least compared to the shiny new theme parks

  • that Disney and Universal were opening over in Orlando.

  • In 2003, the New York Times called this place "aging" and "faded".

  • But it turns out that once something gets old enough,

  • with the right marketing, "outdated" can become "retro". "Historic".

  • - Weeki Wachee Springs was a private company

  • all the way up until 2008, when the state of Florida,

  • in an effort to help save it, acquired the attraction.

  • And not only did they acquire it

  • for the natural resource that we have here, the spring,

  • the scrub habitat that surrounds the spring,

  • but also because of the cultural significance

  • of what the mermaids have meant to Florida tourism for seven decades now.

  • - Weeki Watchee is never going to be on same level as Walt Disney World.

  • It couldn't be.

  • But the same day I'm here, the Florida state tourist board have sent a crew to film.

  • The last audition call for mermaids here made the news around the world,

  • and the articles are sounding a lot more positive than they did 15 years ago.

  • In the 21st century, Weeki Wachee is becoming a bit of living history.

  • History that still has three shows a day.

  • - Being a mermaid is the best job anyone could ask for.

  • My favourite part of the job is dealing with the kids

  • and making a difference in the community.

  • We do a lot of dealing with Make-A-Wish programmes,

  • and these kids think that you're really a mermaid

  • and they think that everything you're doing is so magical.

  • Just making such a difference in their lives,

  • just by coming to work,

  • we're pretty lucky that we can do that.

  • - Thanks to all the team at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

  • You can find out more about them at the links in the description.

This is not an artificial swimming pool,

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B1 INT mermaid florida swimming water attraction theatre

The 1940s Mermaid Show That's Still Pulling Crowds

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/01
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