Professional mermaid isn't a position that comes up often for job seekers. But for 70 years, a Florida roadside attraction has been the profession's biggest employer.
On a cold, gray Saturday morning, dozens of women swam laps in iceberg blue water at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park as onlookers bundled up in coats and mittens cheered them on.
Close to 60 aspiring mermaids are competing to earn just eight slots on the park's famous mermaid squad.
When 25-year-old Susanna Herrick heard about the auditions, the Marylander hopped on a plane for a shot at fulfilling her childhood dream.
"When I was 6-years old we were driving through Florida with my family and we saw a billboard for Weeki Wachee Springs and I immediately knew that that was what I wanted to be," she said.
After the former competitive swimmer emerged from the water, she was one of the first to complete a 300-yard timed endurance swim, both with and against a strong 5 mph current.
But Herrick didn't stay out of the 74 degree springs for long. After a quick gulp of hot coffee, she then successfully completed the next challenge, 10 minutes of continuous treading water. She is now able to move to the second phase of the hiring process. In the coming weeks ladies will be invited back for an underwater audition.
Amanda Luter, the park's mermaid manager, said appearing graceful while submerged 16 to 20 feet isn't easy.
"So if they're under the water and they look panicky or they feel uncomfortable or they're getting water up their nose and they're freaking out, maybe this isn't for them," she said. "Maybe they're not as comfortable under the water as they are outside of it."
Just 11 hopefuls failed the swim test. The rest will get a chance to earn their tails in the coming weeks.