Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.
Giant squid are carnivorous mollusks the size of a school bus with a beak-like mouth that can cut through steel cable. You think they'd be hard to miss. And yet, largely because the squid tend toward the deepest water, they're so seldom seen that most people thought they were a myth---right up until a French ship brought back a chunk of one in the 1860s.
But while bringing home the giant squidy bacon isn't particularly simple, it's also not impossible. In this excerpt from Be Amazing, you'll find that there's more than one way to skin a sea monster.
Method 1: Forget the Net
You might have more luck "capturing" a squid on film. In September 2004, Japanese researchers took the first photos of a live giant squid in its natural habitat. The team sent cameras mounted to barbed bait hooks (the bait: smaller squids) nearly 3,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean. Before long, a 26-foot squid attempted to eat his scrawnier brethren and hooked himself on the line, allowing researchers to take some 500 photos before the squid escaped.
Method 2: Offer Squid a Tasty Treat
If your preferred squid looks hungry, try luring it with a delicious oil tanker. During the course of the 1930s, the Norwegian tanker Brunswick was attacked not once, not twice, but three times by giant squid. Metal boats don't sound especially appetizing, but scientists think squid mistake the large, gray objects for whales---a decidedly yummy entree giant squid have been known to dine upon. Unfortunately, it's more difficult to get a good grip on the steel hull of a tanker, than on the pliable hide of a whale. Whenever a squid tried to put the Brunswick in a choke hold, its tentacles would slip, and the squid would end up making a fatal slide into the ship's propellers.
Method 3: Just Go Have a Beer and Wait for the Squid to Come to You
Time-tested and infinitely more relaxing, this classic method is also responsible for catching one of the largest squid ever measured. In November, 1878, two Canadian fishermen from the delightfully named town of Timble Tickle, New Brunswick, found a giant squid washed ashore. Although technically on the lookout for smaller aquatic creatures, the fishermen gladly accepted the bounty the sea had given them, hauling the giant beast further onto land and tying it up to a tree. After it was dead (and, presumably, less feisty), the fishermen broke out the tape measure. From the tip of the its tail to the end of its tentacles, the squid was more than 50 feet long.
Please direct praise and/or fawning donations to illustrator Michael Rogalski.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.