Saturday, 3 January 2009

Colossal squid

We paid a visit to the colossal squid at Te Papa today. The exhibit starts with a short 3D movie depicting life under the sea, which attempts to put a live colossal squid in proportion with other ocean life. Despite reading all the stats, and seeing the squid for real, it's hard to conceive of something so massive (or even larger creatures) living in our waters. That's why I love astronomy (just to digress, slightly ...); the sheer scale and proportion of beings in space, as well as the distance between objects, helps put life on earth into perspective. We are mere 'blips' in the universe, and the rest of existence will continue regardless of whether we buy those shoes, see that movie, or spend an extra hour at work. The same goes for underwater life, although, to be honest, it's harder for me to conceive of the sheer enormity of life in the deep ocean.

It is not known why this squid held on so fiercely to the bait she grabbed, ultimately bringing her to the surface of the Antarctic ocean. The decompression she would have experienced during her ascent meant she wasn't going to survive and couldn't be returned to the sea. The ensuing opportunity for the world's squid experts threw up many challenges, and some are shown on a short video about the freezing, defrosting, and research processes.

This squid is a beauty, so to speak. Some stats I remember:
  • her eye is the size of a soccer ball, with each lens the size of an orange and split in two
  • her throat passes through her brain, so if she eats something too big, it could do some damage
  • she was about 4.5 metres long and weighed 490kg, even though she is estimated to be only half the size of a fully-grown female colossal squid
  • find out more here.
Merely a shadow of her former self now, I'd certainly recommend going to see this colossal squid, as she is the only one on display in the world. She had a lot of visitors today, due to it being a holiday with less-than-ideal weather. As with most exhibitions at Te Papa, there is free entry. Well worth a visit!