Friday Squid Blogging: Giant Squid in Australia

On television:

According to juicy folklore and loose legend, for centuries, the inky waters of our deepest oceans have been home to that most mysterious of marine creatures -- the giant squid. Well, as we speak, visitors to Melbourne's aquarium can take a gander at the real thing, a 7m-long squid, caught in New Zealand and frozen in a block of ice.

For 30 years, almost obsessively, one real scientific character from across the Tasman has been chasing these elusive creatures and Ben Deacon caught up with him, hard at what's clearly become his life's work.

Watch the video here.

Posted on March 10, 2006 at 2:46 PM • 14 Comments

Comments

Rob MayfieldMarch 10, 2006 4:03 PM

The Melbourne Aquarium is sensational.

One question though, we've seen a giant squid in a giant tank of preservative, we've seen a giant squid in a giant block of ice, but when is someone going to do a crumbed giant squid in a giant deep fryer ?

stacyMarch 10, 2006 4:46 PM

"but when is someone going to do a crumbed giant squid in a giant deep fryer ?"

The plot for a new B movie "The Attack of the Killer Calamari" :-)

royMarch 10, 2006 6:08 PM

Giant squid is off the menu, sorry. Their blood salt isn't sodium chloride but ammonium chloride. You don't want to sample these critters.

Steve HattMarch 10, 2006 6:23 PM

On Fri Mar 10, 2006 4:03 PM, Rob Mayfield wrote

> when is someone going to do a crumbed giant
> squid in a giant deep fryer ?

Probably less than edible due to high ammonia content. Yummy. Urine.

Simon JohnsonMarch 10, 2006 7:07 PM

While I do like your Friday squid blogging sessions (and i'm not taking the piss here..), I do have one question?

What is it that attracts you to Squids? Why not some other animal?

Simon.

TankMarch 10, 2006 7:08 PM

> when is someone going to do a crumbed giant
> squid in a giant deep fryer ?

Sailors on whaling vessels used to eat giant squid a lot in past centuries. Calamari rings were fried in whale oil and would sustain the largest crew for days. The rings which were overcooked and too rubbery to be edible were hung up around the ship to dry out and were thrown to crew washed overboard in the swell. The bouyant nature of the cooked hood of the squid acted as a passable floatation device. This tradition of bouyant rings hung around the exterior of ocean going vessels is still carried on today.

Bruce SchneierMarch 10, 2006 7:17 PM

"While I do like your Friday squid blogging sessions (and i'm not taking the piss here..), I do have one question?

"What is it that attracts you to Squids? Why not some other animal?"

That's two questions.

Bruce SchneierMarch 10, 2006 7:18 PM

"Giant squid is off the menu, sorry. Their blood salt isn't sodium chloride but ammonium chloride. You don't want to sample these critters."

Damn.

Matthew SkalaMarch 10, 2006 7:21 PM

Their blood salt isn't sodium chloride but ammonium chloride.

Ammonium chloride-flavoured licorice is popular throughout Northern Europe. In Finland, it's called salmiakki.

another_bruceMarch 11, 2006 11:44 AM

i'm not ready to throw in the towel on eating giant squid. except for the scale, giant squid seem very like small and medium-sized squid, which we know are good to eat. it would be counterintuitive for these similar animals to have completely different blood chemistry.
i think the ammonium thing got started because giant squid specimens are rare; in the past, they were usually found washed up on a beach.
you leave any shellfish on a beach for a couple of days and it's gonna smell like ammonia.

BillMarch 11, 2006 7:49 PM

Your Friday squid blogging reminds me of Penn Jillette's 1 painted fingernail.

D V Henkel-WallaceMarch 12, 2006 10:47 AM

Unfortunately the giant squid is displayed vertically. They've cleverly put windows on successive floors so kids can run up the stairs and look at at, which you might think would give you some sense of scale. Unfortunately the murky views you get, and the inability to see the totality of the squid, make it impossible to appreciate that you're looking at a _giant_ squid. In fact really it seems like you're looking at a series of display cases on squids, annoyingly placed storey-to-storey.

On the other hand, the exhibition on Sir Douglas Mawson's exploration of the antarctic is really intense and disturbing.

RogerMarch 13, 2006 2:24 AM

@another_bruce:

> i'm not ready to throw in the towel on eating giant squid. except for the scale, giant squid seem very like small and medium-sized squid, which we know are good to eat.

Well, they are a different species, and even a different genus. Actually, most genera of squid contain some ammonious fluid, but the concentration varies considerably. Generally, the deeper they live, the higher the concentration. Architeuthis lives very, very deep.

> it would be counterintuitive for these similar animals to have completely different blood chemistry.

Technically not blood chemistry; only non-circulating fluids contain elevated ammonium concentrations. In most species it is contained in tiny vacuoles embedded in the muscle tissue.

> i think the ammonium thing got started because giant squid specimens are rare; in the past, they were usually found washed up on a beach.
you leave any shellfish on a beach for a couple of days and it's gonna smell like ammonia.

Sorry, but the mechanism has already been studied to some degree in smaller ammonious squid, and it is quite certain that it is generated by the living animal. It is believed to be a buoyancy control mechanism. Unlike fish, squid do not have a swim bladder, and ammonium chloride is less dense than sodium chloride.

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