In 1935, the ‘Labor Day Storm’ hit the Florida Keys, claiming nearly four hundred lives The morning after the storm, a young woman was found tangled in trawler netting, in the lee of the seawall at Plantation Key. Unconscious; with a piece of black and white medal ribbon tightly wrapped around her index finger, she was taken to a temporary hospital set up to attend the storm victims. Once there, her extraordinary physical characteristics were revealed to a disbelieving medical team. Her feet were fused together and morphed into small but finely formed cetacean tail flukes. The enigma of her personal history was never satisfactorily unravelled. She herself was unable to provide a back-story. Not only was she a mute; she appeared not to understand English and was unable to sign. A subject of various scientific papers, she became something of a tug of interest between several medical disciplines. Less an exhibit in a freak show; she was more of a specimen presented on a microscope slide. She underwent rigorous scientific tests in the pool, which revealed her ability to swim at high speed over short distances, combined with impressive subsurface endurance. She was hailed as a sporting prodigy, yet barred from representing the US at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. The team selectors hands were tied, as she was unable fulfil the necessary naturalisation requirements. Consider the impact on the Nazi regime’s morale, had both a black athlete and a mutant female with restricted terrestrial movement triumphed over German sporting Ubermenschen… Nevertheless, this episode changed her life. In that year’s fall, Norman Rockwell painted her full-length portrait to illustrate a Saturday Evening Post feature on ‘Outsider lifestyles in America Today’. Through this article, she came to the attention of military pilot Edward Amery. He courted her carefully; over a period of four years, he gained her trust and affection, and they were married in May 1940, settling down to shared obscurity in the coastal village of Palm Coast, Florida. After war was declared, Col. Amery was assigned to the 44th Bombardment Group, which was deployed to England in September 1942, and thence to Libya in June 1943. He was permitted to decorate the nose of his B24 with a facsimile of Rockwell’s portrait, ‘Mute Beauty’. During Operation Tidal Wave, a raid on the oil refineries of Ploiesti, Romania, on August 1st 1943, ‘Mute Beauty’ was hit; her port engines catching fire. She crashed three miles short of her target. All her crew were lost. Military authorities were dispatched to deliver the sad news to Amery’s widow. They found the beachside home unlocked, but deserted. Neighbours confirmed that nothing was missing from the Amery home, save for a tattered length of medal ribbon, which they all noted had always hung from the mantelpiece… Marina Amery was never seen again.