Squid and ships

Clem

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"This creature, like Architeuthis, is probably a deep-water dweller. What earthly—or oceanic—reason would a squid have for attacking a ship?"

Richard Ellis asked that reasonable question in National Geographic's feature, "Colossal Squid Revives Legends of Sea Monsters." TONMO staff memeber Kat Bolstad has already put paid to that article's many inaccuracies and distortions, and cited the acknowledgement on the part of the French yachtsmen that their reported "squid attack" was a hoax.

Whether or not large oceanic squid have "attacked" boats is probably beside the point. Less photographic or physical evidence of such an event, there's little reason to believe that it's a common occurence, let alone evidence of "man-eating" squid plucking sailors from lifeboats. On the other hand, giant squid have been observed from surface vessels (the 1861 Alecton encounter), actively defended themselves against fishermen (1873, Conception Bay, Newfoundland) and collided with moving vessels (the Santa Clara, off North Carolina in 1947).

Then, there are all those "sea serpents." Some of the best known and described encounters involved ships and "serpents" in close proximity. The cryptid seen in 1848 by the crew of the H.M.S. Daedalus passed close to the ship's side and crossed the wake, as did whatever animal was seen by the crew of the H.M.S. Plumper (1848). In 1872, an unknown animal followed a small sailboat in Scotland's Slough of sleat, and again in 1905 a "serpent" followed Maj. General Merriam's sailboat of the Maine coast.

If the notion that these and other "sea serpent" sightings were actually observations of big oceanic squid is accepted, it does raise an interesting question: since many such sightings were made at close quarters from the decks of ships, sightings that involved animals moving quite energetically, why would a healthy giant squid interact with a ship? The collision that ocurred between a GS and the Santa Clara seems even more unlikely; given the vastness of the ocean, and the size of the ship (a Grace Line steamer), the odds of a random collision would seem to be vanishingly small.

If squid occasionally interact with ships, following them, investigating them or grabbing them, what "earthly reason" could they have for doing so? Might the squid "think" that these boats were something else?

:roll:
 

cthulhu77

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I remember seeing a documentary on the Discovery channel a few years ago re: a scientist who said that cephs never attacked people...then they showed a tape of him being mauled by a Humbolt-Current squid, and his interview afterwards where he had changed his mind...do you know the name of that episode? I would love to get it for my permanent collection! I kick myself all the time for not taping it!
Greg
 

Clem

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The fellow's name was Alex Kerstich; he was filming Humbolts (Dosidicus gigas) at night. Three squid rushed him, and he lost some gear when they grabbed him. Since the Humbolts were feeding on fish at the time, drawn to the scene by lights from the boat (and the camera rig), it was really more a case of generalized aggression than a singling out of humans; the squids let go of Kerstich pretty fast. Scared the crap out of him, though.

I don't know the title of the documentary he was filming for, but I seem to recall that Peter Benchley was involved. "The Last Sea Monster" rings a bell.
 

cthulhu77

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that was the one! thanks! being charged by three Humbolts would scare the crap out of anyone, accidental or not...beautiful animals though, aren't they? I will look for that tape...thanks again,
Greg
 

PaulM

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Squid v Boats

:lol:

Didn't Ellis also speculate that giant squid could be responsible for most sightings of sea serpents on the sea surface, by swimming along with 1 tentacle out of the water! the classic head/neck reports.

Given that this is highly unlikely as most large squid are deep water species, it seems unlikely that his theory is sound.
 

Clem

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Paul,

Ellis has written at length about the serpent/squid hypothesis. You're right to point out that most big teuthids are deep-water species; specimens of Architeuthis brought up in trawl-nets have usually been snagged at a depth of @ 1000m. The recent capture of a Mesonychoteuthis in the Ross Sea took place at the surface, however, as the squid was biting Patagonian Toothfish off of long-lines. The assumption has been made that Archi. would probably appear at the surface only if it were sick or disabled; at depth, Archi's main predator is the sperm whale, but if that relatively weak-bodied animal went higher in the water column it would encounter many more species capable of killing it: big sharks, billfish and other toothed whales. Mesonychoteuthis is much more robust and powerful. Perhaps room for it should be made in the serpent/squid equation.

As for the tentacles, Architeuthis and Mesonycho's tentacles are equipped with suckers and tubercles running the length of their tentacles, enabling the animal to "zip" the two arms together. I'm doubtful that the serpentiform "necks" of sea-serpents undulating above the surface could be a single tentacle of Architeuthis: the tentacle probably isn't solid enough to support the weight of the tentacular club above the surface. Mesonychoteuthis' tentacles are pretty substantial, but I suspect it would still need to keep both tentacles zipped together to generate enough main strength for keeping the clubs above water. This arrangement could also explain the description of sea-serpents with open "mouths:" the "head" might be two clubs spreading apart. (Press your forearms together from elbow to wrist, open your hands a bit, then look at the profile.)

Could be.

:roll:

Clem
 

tonmo

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Re: Squid v Boats

Yes, Matt, I agree!

PaulM said:
Given that this is highly unlikely as most large squid are deep water species, it seems unlikely that his theory is sound.
In Ellis' defense, I seem to remember him writing that his scenario would apply to dying squid (as Clem points out). That is, based on what I've been told, I agree with you that it would be very unlikely for a healthy squid to be roaming near the surface... but dead/dying giant squid have been captured near the surface, and in such a state, isn't it feasible that they could be partially breaking the surface, with a tentacle raised, with the club resembling a head, and the whole picture resembling a sea dragon to shocked onlookers?

Clem said:

I'm doubtful that the serpentiform "necks" of sea-serpents undulating above the surface could be a single tentacle of Architeuthis: the tentacle probably isn't solid enough to support the weight of the tentacular club above the surface.
That is an interesting speculation... I wonder if Steve or Kat have any thoughts on this (if they're even still reading... :roll: ) I mean, on what do you base this theory, that a squid tentacle does not have the strength to elevate it's arm? Hmm... I suppose if I had a 20-foot arm, I probably couldn't hold it outstretched for very long... (Ok, now I'm certain Steve and Kat are no longer reading :) )

Clem, I like the analogy you've applied in your attachment, suggesting that since we believe sharks tend to think of surfers as seals, then why wouldn't Architeuthis or Mesonychoteuthis mistake a boat for a whale, or another squid, or what have you? However, sharks are different, in that they do tend to naturally spend time closer to the surface than giant/colossal squids would seem to. At their normal depths, I don't suspect large squids are seeing much of anything that touches the sun. And is a disabled/dying squid going to have the wherewithal to approach whatever object it might think it sees? In such a state, they're probably relatively listless... which does seem to give credence to your idea that a dying squid may not be able to elevate its tentacle in such a way as to appear as a serpent.

As for Architeuthis and Mesonychoteuthis "zipping" their arms together, we have no evidence of them doing such a thing, as far as I know. This is pure speculation, right Clem? I suppose this is feasible, but isn't it just as feasible (or moreso, despite the "elevation" issue) to imagine that the one flaying tentacle of a dying squid might resemble an "energetic" sea serpent to a terrorized sailor?
 

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