Sighting of Possible Large Cephalopod Near Portugal

Tim Stress Eng

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Regarding the possible large size of the squid species. In 1994 whilst on board the 40 foot yacht 'Respite' I encountered a bioluminscent object during the early hours 40 miles off the Portuguese coast near Nazare that dwarfed the yacht. I estimated the body (Mantle?) to be between 80 to 150 feet long and 20 to 45 feet in diameter. The trailing area (beyond the truncated end) appeared to have wriggling pink tubes (Tetacles?) with dark blotches. It was a dark cloud covered night appart from the glow of the yachts navigation lights. The object was visible due to a red bioluminescent diamond 'coarse fishing net mesh' and a brighter glow near the 'head and tentacle' end. I now (many years later) recognise that its shape and movement had the characteristics of the squid family but on a grand scale. From this experience I can now believe that a type of squid 200 feet long could exist. Regarding whale scars would they grow at a uniform rate and remain circular as the whale matures or would they distort?
 

daviddickinson

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Perhaps what you saw may have been something like a very big Lion Mane's jellyfish? I am not sure if they are luminiscent?
 

chrono_war01

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if it was a jellyfish, it would be one of epic proportions.
 

monty

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:welcome: to TONMO! My dad's boat is also named "Respite," but it's not so big... and we've never seen anything like that (although he rarely takes it out of San Fransisco Bay, where there is a paucity of giant squids).

I'm not sure what you mean by "diamond 'coarse fishing net'"-- did it look like it was covered in a giant, glowing fishnet stocking?

This is certainly larger than any known large squid, if your estimates are correct. One possibility I can imagine is that it may have been phosphorescent algae or similar stirred up by some large object and leaving a trail... I've seen things like that off California occasionally, although usually glowing blue-green rather than red.

Most large squids don't have photophores distributed like that, almost all are actually pretty dark. Taningia danae has light organs at the end of its arms and I think a few other places, but, as in most squids, they tend to be small, localized points of light. Red bioluminescence is quite rare in marine species, squids included, because red light doesn't travel well in water, so it's neither good for countershading for camouflage nor visibility for attracting mates or prey. There are a few exceptions: there's a very deep-sea fish (maybe a lanternfish or an angler?) that uses red light that it can see but most deep sea animals can't, so it can see its prey in the dark. I've occasionally wondered if the (non-glowing) red coloration of many large squids is because with their large eyes they can see each other in the dark waters they normally inhabit, but other animals there with smaller eyes tend to see them as black since there's so little red light.

I suppose I've gone rather afield of the question, but a glowing red squid would be interesting. The size and pattern being unlike any squid reported make me inclined to look for a non-squid explanation, though.
 

OB

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I would be inclined to follow your conjecture, Monty: a disturbed "cloud" of bioluminescent plankton would be my first guess, but red, hmmmm, not familiar with any other species bar the aforementioned deep sea teleosts, Malacosteus, Aristostomias, and Pachystomias...

(EDIT: Erenna tentilla!)

Maybe it was a Neil Diamond course fishing net? :no_diamond:

Our "friend" Ice Cherry is playing Rotterdam on the 24th of May, by the way, run, do not walk, to the hills!

 

Tim Stress Eng

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This was not a jellyfish. It approached the yacht at tremendous vertical speed, say 50 knts. Later that night 2 dolphins approached and went under the yacht. I could see them due to the white phosphoresence. They were far slower than the large bioluminescent creature I saw earlier as it approached vertically (It slowed as it went horizontal and under the yacht). I have spent quite a few hours at sea in various sailing craft over the last 45 years and have seen sharks, whales, dolphins and porpoises. I was initially trained as a Yacht Designer and have mechanical engineering and Yachtmaster qualifications so hope my technical training would help me assess what I had seen. I have tried to be as objective as I can, based on what I know and what I have seen, I remain convinced that this was some sort of large squid species with a mantle arround 100 feet long. I cannot think of any other explanation that fits the facts.
When it left the yacht the 'leading' end dropped down so that it hung vetrically. I was able to see it due to a white swirling arround it's body (the mantle contracting, pumping and generating flow in the Siphon?). It gave the impression of an upside down rocket prior to take off. It then rapidly accelerated into the depths and disappeared.

DESCRIPTION OF EVENT JULY 1994 30 MILES OF PORTUGUESE COAST
Yacht and Location:
I am a structural engineer/designer (55 years old) with long experience (45 years) of the sea and small boats. In between engineering jobs I worked as a delivery skipper in the early 90's. In 1994 (probably around the 5th of July based on the log which I only have from the 12th onwards) I was assisting delivery of a Jeanneau Sunshine 38 named ‘Respite’ (a 38 foot long modern shallow fin and skeg yacht with stomach jarring slamming characteristics, painted black below WL and with some barnacle fouling on the bottom). We were making slow progress under sail, about 30 miles off the coast of Portugal (probably north of Peniche where the Nazare Canyon runs to a depth of 5 km), and it was about 2 am with the boat was banging (slamming) into a slight swell with light winds. We were doing about 4 knots at max and more probably only 3knots in a Northerly direction.

Description of Event:
The vessel was suddenly approached rapidly by an under water object from the starboard aft quarter. Initially my eye was caught by a whitish circular glow in the water, which must have been the object viewed end on coming vertically upwards towards us. The trajectory of the object was close to vertical and then it rapidly slowed and changed to horizontal motion aligning itself with the fore and aft axis of the boat. It then slowly travelled vertically towards the underside of the vessel. The shape was that of a mildly tapering cylinder round at one end and truncated at the other, outlined by a glowing net shape (it was dark – no moonlight) of varying shades of red colour (as if a slightly tapered cylinder had a bright red coloured fishing net rapped around it - the nodes were thicker than the connecting lines which tapered in to the middle then widened, the reds were of varying shades – it reminded me of the mesh of a structural finite element model). Initially I thought it might have been a dolphin (they glow white in the water due to phosphorescence) but why glowing red? It rotated with its ‘forward?’ end lining up with our transom and aft end lining up with the bow. The forward round end was a smaller diameter than the rear end. The rear end appeared to stop abruptly as if cut off at right angles (truncated). The diameter to length was about 3:1. The diamond mesh size was about a tenth of the diameter. This all happened over about 5 seconds. The body continued to move vertically in the water, towards the bottom of the yacht (It must have been at quite a depth when I first saw it) and became visually much larger. It was at this point that I became alarmed as I could see the red mesh outline of the body projecting beyond the vessel forward and appearing less so aft and to port and starboard. I thought I could now see something pink/red beyond the ‘cut off’ area – wriggling tubes forward well beyond the bow with very bright luminescence all nearer the surface of the sea. This bright, wriggling pink area appeared to be just beyond the ‘cut off’ of the mesh body. The mesh colouring was now relatively very bright (but less bright than the luminescent area forward of the bow which was not a mesh but continuous) especially when compared with earlier (it had been deeper down) the more intense red colour clearly showing the shape of the body but not in as bright a way as the luminescence forward of the bow. I think the reds on the mesh were changing shades of colour. I estimated the size as a minimum of 60 foot long by 20 foot wide although when I draw my scale line of vision side view of the yacht afloat above this creature it could have been far larger (note the area forward of the boat appeared to be closer to the waters surface than the net delineated taper cylinder shape laying under the stern – the tapered mesh end hanging down maybe 30 degrees or more to the horizontal).
It lay for a while under the bottom of the boat aligned fore and aft and motionless save for the wriggling forward, say for 10 seconds. It did not appear to break the surface. In an instant the taper end rotated down and forward towards the yachts bow. It then dived down from the yachts port bow travelling taper end first and was seen by myself as a whitish streak disappearing quickly into the depths.
I normally have detected whales by smell or the sound or exhaling when they are close, no smell no noise - I felt my life might be in danger and was in shock at the shear size of the thing. My instincts were to keep perfectly still whilst standing at the yachts wheel, whilst this occurred (not even moving my head). I did not have the time or the inclination to shine a torch over the side and it was all over very quickly. It appeared to act as one body and not like a school of fish i.e. a complete entity.
Tim Lipington MRAeS AMRINA Inc.Eng. RYA Yachtmaster
 

Tim Stress Eng

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It did look as if it was covered in a red bioluminescent glowing fishnet stocking showing by outline a body shape - a taper cylinder rounded at the leading edge and truncated at the trailing edge. At the edge I thought I could just see the edge of the body, a different shade from the sea indicating something solid. Beyond the bow of the yacht I could see a brighter glow in the water as if a submersable had its search lights on. This was only in the forward area where the wriggling tubes were. The body was defined visually by the 'fishnet stocking' - hope this helps you picture what I have seen. I am planning to get a painting created to show what I saw.
 

daviddickinson

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Your description sounds fascinating and intriguing - if it was a squid then maybe A.G.Starkey wasn't making it up?! :sink:
 

OB

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This is a very elaborate story, Tim. Excuse us our scientifically inclined scepsis, as it might get in the way of wonderment. I am eager to find an explanation, as you are yourself, but rest assured that no known cephalopod comes anywhere close to your description.

Let's speculate!

Hoax is not interesting and therefore off the map, if only for argument's sake. On top of that, I will, as always, assume your integrity to be complete, until proven otherwise. I read your similar entry on wikipedia, and as we are a humorous lot at TONMO, the thought of one of our established posters to have created a new ficticious account with your wiki entry in mind, did cross my mind initially...

Suspense of disbelief.

On to the topic. Was there any hint of fins near the tapering end of the ghostish apparition you encountered? Secondly, would you concur that a speed of 50 knots is hard to attain by even the fastest marine creatures, such as sailfish (clocked at 110 km/h = 68 m/h!) and mako sharks? The hint this assessment gives of exaggeration might lead some posters to read your other statements in a similar light. On a third note, could a small submersible, as indicated by a glow of underwater lights, not prove to be Occam's razor in this particular case?

I look forward to your assessments, convinced as we all are that mysterious creatures still abound in the vast open ocean.
 

Tim Stress Eng

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I totally understand any disbelief regarding what I have stated. I still find it hard to believe what I have seen but I can only desribe the encounter as accurately as I can. My estimate of speed is a pure guess based on relative sizes and could be far too high (it was based on an instantaneous impression). If one scales up a squid to the extraordinary sizes I am suggesting then it should be possible to estimate the speed potential for a syphon driven sprint to the surface. I will go back to my Naval Architecture theory - dynamic similitude (scaling) and see if I can come up with some numbers!
As an avaiation structural signatory and ex delivery skipper I can only hope to present myself as a reliable and responsible whitness.
I am trained to be cynical as part of my job so understand and expect any such responses. I can only repeat that I have attempted to describe what I saw that night accurately and to the best of my ability. I am an senior engineer and experienced sailor. I have no reason to make up such a story. If it was a submarine the people would have had to have been strapped in as it travelled vertically up and down. What were the wriggling tubes about? How would they be part of a submarine? I have been at a loss for the past 14 years to explain what I have seen but it does appear to have some squid characteristics - I do not think it was a whale or a shoal of fish. I would like to know if anyone else has ever seen anything similar?
 



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