Mermaid expert contributes to Guinness Book of World Records 2024

Guinness Book of World Records

An academic in the University’s Department of English has contributed to the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records with her expertise in mermaids across literature, arts and culture.

Professor Sarah Peverley, cultural historian and expert in mythical creatures, was a consultant for Guinness World Records, helping them to compile the latest records concerning mermaids and twenty-first-century records set by mermaid performers.

The eyes of the world were on mermaids this year with the release of a new live-action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. There are therefore plenty of mermaid-based records included in the book such as the world’s most expensive mermaid (the Feejee mermaid costing approximately £110,00 in the 1820s), the largest merperson statue (sculpted in 1937 at 7.6 metres tall) and the largest gathering of people dressed as mermaids (457 people in the Bahamas in 2022).

As well as these historical records, Professor Peverley also contributed to records concerning modern-day mermaid challenges. This year, the record for the furthest swim with a monofin (50 kilometres) was achieved by 32-year-old Estonian national swimmer Merle Liivand. This challenge, known as the “mermaid swim” precludes the use of the arms and so relies solely on undulating the core and lower body and propulsion with the monofin/tail.

The Guinness Book of World Records, listing both records of human achievement and extremes of the natural world, is published annually. Since its inception in 1955 it has sold more than 100 million copies in 100 countries and is translated into more than 37 languages.

Professor Peverley said: “Working as a consultant for Guinness World Records was very exciting. I was involved with the mermaid feature from the planning stages of the 2024 book, so I got to use my research expertise to shape the content. We opted for records that shed light on notable mermaids in global history as well as incorporating inspiring present-day mermaid feats from the incredible athletes and performers that swim in monofins!

“My favourite moment was when the Guinness team managed to get Kanayi Kunhiraman’s Jalakanyaka measured in Kerala at short notice. Their ‘man on the ground’ in India was able to confirm it as the world’s largest merperson sculpture and congratulations to the artist were circulated on social media. I compiled entries for 20 records, with detailed information and sources, and then shorter entries were extracted from these for the book.”

This week, Professor Peverley has also contributed to an episode about mermaids as part of a BBC Radio 4 series on Mythical Creatures, hosted by fantasy writer Rhianna Pratchett. You can listen online here.

You can find out more information on the Guinness Book of World Records here.