Friday Squid Blogging: Humboldt Squid

Great article on the Humboldt squid from Outside Magazine:

I worry about these things because Cassell, 44, a world-class diver, underwater cameraman, and Special Operations vet from Escondido, California, is out to convince me -- live and up close -- that the undersea world's most intriguing predator is not one of the usual suspects (like the great white shark or killer whale) but a powerful, outsize squid that features eight snakelike arms lined with suckers full of nasty little teeth, a razor-sharp beak that can rapidly rip flesh into bite-size chunks, and an unrelenting hunger. It's called the Humboldt, or jumbo, squid, and it's not the sort of calamari you're used to forking off your dinner plate. This squid grows to seven feet or more and perhaps a couple hundred pounds. It has a rep as the outlaw biker of the marine world: intelligent and opportunistic, a stone-cold cannibal willing to attack divers with a seemingly deliberate hostility.

What about the giant squid, you may ask? "Wimpy," says Cassell. The giant -- which grows to 60-plus feet and is one of only four squid, out of the 400 or so species found in the oceans, that are human-size or bigger -- is generally considered to be fairly placid. In any case, it's so elusive, no modern squid hunter has ever even seen one alive. No, if you want a scary squid, you want a Humboldt. And they're easy to find, teeming by the millions in Pacific waters from Chile to British Columbia. (It's named after the Humboldt Current, off South America's west coast.)

Cassell first heard about the "diablos rojos," or red devils, in 1995, from some Mexican fishermen as he was filming gray whales for German public television in Baja's Laguna San Ignacio. Intrigued, he made his way to La Paz, near the southern tip of Baja, to dive under the squid-fishing fleet. It was baptism by tentacle. Humboldts -- mostly five-footers -- swarmed around him. As Cassell tells it, one attacked his camera, which smashed into his face, while another wrapped itself around his head and yanked hard on his right arm, dislocating his shoulder. A third bit into his chest, and as he tried to protect himself he was gang-dragged so quickly from 30 to 70 feet that he didn't have time to equalize properly, and his right eardrum ruptured. "I was in the water five minutes and I already had my first injury," Cassell recalls, shaking his head. "It was like being in a barroom brawl." Somehow he managed to push the squid-pile off and make his way to the surface, battered and exhilarated. "I was in love with the animal," he says.

Posted on July 21, 2006 at 3:23 PM • 17 Comments

Comments

Clive RobinsonJuly 22, 2006 5:34 AM

Mr Cassell sounds like somebody who belives the saying

"what does not kill you makes you stronger"

DavidJuly 22, 2006 7:34 AM

"What about the giant squid, you may ask? "Wimpy," says Cassell. The giant -- which grows to 60-plus feet and is one of only four squid, out of the 400 or so species found in the oceans, that are human-size or bigger -- is generally considered to be fairly placid. In any case, it's so elusive, no modern squid hunter has ever even seen one alive. "

What about this?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4288772.stm

RoxanneJuly 22, 2006 9:08 AM

We're in trouble if the squid ever develop the squid-equivalent of high technology. What are they doing in their secret underwater labs, anyway? ;-)

Dom De VittoJuly 22, 2006 3:21 PM

Yep, but 5ft Humbolts are still juviniles, it's the 7fters you want to worry about.

They see people as "interesting" - both as an object to examine, and then to maybe try putting it's 15,000+ ring hooks into to keep it steady while it has a bite.

These things are known to drag fishermen from boats and eat them. Yes, seriously.

Kevlar "diving suits" are manditory, and must cover every square centimetre, unless you want to get pictures of a Humbolt jetting off with your arm/leg/head.

MSJuly 22, 2006 5:03 PM

Hmm. Here in the UK we had a documentary not so long ago with acclaimed filmmaker Mike DeGruy diving away from the fishermens' boats/bait/hooks, whereupon he show that in its normal environment, the humboldt is not nearly as aggressive as it's often portrayed.

Ben LiddicottJuly 24, 2006 5:54 AM

@MS "...away from the fishermens' boats/bait/hooks, whereupon he show that in its normal environment, the humboldt is not nearly as aggressive as it's often portrayed"

An armed society is a polite society?

:-)

SamJuly 24, 2006 8:14 AM

Yeah; if I were a humboldt I would be glad to be so-armed, ready; if the fishermen came after me with their bait and hooks, I'd know what to do.

Who doesn't want society to be armed? Those with the bait and hooks.

(
Actually I don't want society to actually be armed, I want them to be able to be armed though, and I want them to know whats worth fighting about.

Sadly much of society is armed and that portion generally doesn't know whats fighting about [IMHO], and rules and laws against being armed hasn't stopped that portion of society being armed.
)

Davi OttenheimerJuly 24, 2006 1:01 PM

Leave it to an ex-Special Forces diver to want to study something in the deep that repeatedly tries to kill him when he visits. At least he wasn't on a mission to destroy them, or use them as proxy to destroy something else after he came to understand them better...or maybe I'm just being too hopeful. Is a school (anyone know the correct collective term?) of remote-controlled humboldts something to consider for the future of combat at sea?

AnonymousJuly 24, 2006 1:53 PM

@Roxanne "We're in trouble if the squid ever develop the squid-equivalent of high technology. What are they doing in their secret underwater labs, anyway? ;-)"

I'm reminded of the Onion article "Dolphins Evolve Opposable Thumbs--'Oh shit!' says humanity."

From that article: "Oh God, I'm so sorry about the tracking collars."

K. SignalJuly 24, 2006 4:47 PM

The Humboldt is probably my favorite Scary Sea Animal. It's amazing to me nobody's made a horror movie about the things yet. Consider that they are intelligent, carnivorous, larger than a man and much stronger, comfortable in shallow waters, and that they hunt in packs -- as far as I'm concerned, a convincing argument for never coming within a quarter mile of the Pacific ocean.

Of course the time to worry will be when they're spotted using tools... An army of Humboldts with coral knives (tipped with blue octopus venom, perhaps) could take over the gol'darn world.

The_SpideJuly 24, 2006 11:30 PM

@ K. Signal: "Of course the time to worry will be when they're spotted using tools... An army of Humboldts with coral knives could take over the gol'darn world."

Have you read (err.. listened to) EarthCore recently... Squid like creatures armed with razor-sharp platinum knives....

http://www.podiobooks.com/podiobooks/book.php?ID=24

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