When Humans Get Animal Prosthetics: Amputee Fitted With Mermaid Fin

By Rachel Cernansky
Mar 13, 2009 2:23 AMJul 19, 2023 6:32 PM


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Following on the, er, tails of yesterday’s animal prosthetics news, a New Zealand woman has become what is probably the closest thing to a real-life mermaid since…well, ever. Nadya Vessey, who had both legs amputated due to a childhood congenital disorder, contacted the Weta Workshop, the special effects company behind such cinematic feats as Lord of the Rings and King Kong, to see if they would create a functional mermaid tail for her. To her surprise, they said yes. It took several thousand dollars, eight staff members, and two and a half years, but the tail was completed in December [for more pics and video, go here] and now successfully helps guide Vessey through the water—though it did force her to learn a new way of swimming. The engineers used 3-D modeling, milling technology, and vacuum forming to design the tail. Its spine and fin are made from polycarbonate, a pliable material. Wetsuit fabric is used for the "skin," and a scale pattern, designed by a Weta artist, is printed on the outer Lycra layer. Vessey's story has already inspired her friend to write a children’s book, The Mermaid Who Lost Her Tail. Maybe a sequel to The Little Mermaid will be next—oh wait, they already did one. Related Content: Discoblog: Animal Prosthetics: False Limbs for Elephants, and Silicone Where You’d Least Expect It ScienceNotFiction: Dr. Terminator: The Prosthetics Designer Who Makes Sci-Fi SculpturesImage courtesy of Margot Macphail

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