Saturday, 9 July 2016

First Giant Squid Caught By Logy Bay Fishermen


Squid are strange creatures. To this day little is known about many of them, least of all is known about the giant squid. But it is a fact that the first picture of a giant squid was made possible by fishermen from Logy Bay. Before then, it was considered a creature of mythology, and the fishermen in Newfoundland that were attacked by these creatures were considered by some -- in the new age of rationality -- to be fools. This photographic evidence would serve as a photograph which "could not lie and would silence the gainsayers", according to the buyer of the squid, Moses Harvey.

A year before this picture was taken, fishermen from Portugal Cove who were manning a small boat, had cut off a couple of tentacles from a giant squid. One of these tentacles served as a meal for a dog, another 19 foot tentacle was brought to a Presbyterian Irish priest as evidence of their small battle for survival. This priest, apparently quite homesick and lost in the natural, estimated the creature to be 72 feet long. “He was known in St. John’s in the mid- and late 1800s as just being crazy after all things from the land and the sea.” says Matthew Gavin Frank, author of the 2014 book Preparing the Ghost.

The fisherman discovered this giant 27 foot long squid thrashing in their net and decided to bring it to the priest who was offering a reward of 10 dollars per tentacle. They were paid 10 dollars for the entire squid, since that was quite a lot of money back then. A dollar or two would be enough to buy a year's subscription to a newspaper.

News of the squid spread quite quickly around the world. P.T. Barnum, famous circus promoter, purportedly offered his bid for the carcass of the wild beast. Even scientists considered it to be "the problem of the giant squid".

The condition of the body of this squid was not good however it allowed Addison Emery Verrill, prominent Yale University zoologist, to produce the world's first accurate depictions of deep sea giganticism in animated form, ending millenia of superstition on the topic of "sea monsters".

Other examples of bizarre squid

Aside from the giant squid, many other strange types of squid exist of which little is known. One very bizarre kind dwells at the bottom of the ocean, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, or the vampire squid, can be found throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world at depths of 600 to 900 metres (2,000 to 3,000 ft). This habitat is known as the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) and at around 3% oxygen saturation, creatures must make very special adaptions to survive here.

One such adaption is a very low metabolic rate. They cannot swim for very long due to the weaker muscles which they possess due to the need to economize energy. The main source of energy at the bottom of the ocean comes from energy generated at the surface, falling as "rain" to the murky depths. A single dead phytoplankton cell could take ten years to make this journey, but more realistically it will stick to mucus and sand and form together in clunks. This is a major energy source for creatures at the bottom.

This means that predators of the vampire squid are quite rare, and inhabiting the very bottom of the ocean where oxygen levels are so low is surely part of its' survival strategy. However, if something comes along and attempts to eat it, it can be quite fast for a short period of time. Most interestingly, if it is cornered it can release a sticky cloud of bioluminescent mucus containing innumerable orbs of blue light which is ejected from its arm tips instead of ink -- like many creatures at the bottom, in this lightless environment, it must generate its' own light. However this is very metabolically costly and only done in extreme situations.

As you can see there are still many strange and exotic creatures at the bottom of the ocean - squid perhaps topping that list. These strange creatures, which evolved from snails, still possess a portion of their shell. This is known as "the beak" and it is strong enough to cut through human bone. That just goes to show how impressive an accomplishment this was - for the fishermen of Logy Bay to finally prove that the danger lurking at these depths was real... and formidable!

Written by Andrew Young

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