Squid Search (fwd)

From: Michael Williamson <pita_at_whale.simmons.edu>
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 16:15:27 -0500 (EST)

J. Michael Williamson
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <http://whale.wheelock.edu>
   Associate Professor-Science
   Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax: 617.734.8666, or 617.566.7369

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 97 12:54:00 GMT
From: r.mallon1_at_genie.com
To: marmam_at_uvvm.uvic.ca, pita_at_whale.simmons.edu
Subject: Squid Search

Squid Search

 Associated Press Writer
   WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- No one has ever seen a giant
squid alive, even though the behemoth is woven into centuries of
myth and literature.
   The legend of the squid starts with the Maori people, who trace
their ancestry to the 10th century Polynesian explorer Kupe. He led
his kinsmen over thousands of miles hunting a giant squid that they
finally captured and killed on the shores of New Zealand.
   Jules Verne brought the giant squid to the threshold of the 20th
century when his fictional Capt. Nemo battled the leviathan in his
submarine, the Nautilus.
   Now, science and legend are coming together off New Zealand,
where the National Geographic magazine and television show hope to
capture the first film of the elusive giant squid alive in the sea.
   Two teams of researchers will head out from South Island at the
end of the month armed with undersea digital video cameras to trawl
from close to the Kaikoura coast to the Mernoo Bank, some 125 miles
   The search will begin just a few miles from Whekenui -- or
"great octopus" -- where the Maori believe Kupe brought the
original giant squid ashore and cooked and ate it. Giant squids
have washed up there, and near Wellington, across the strait from
   Scientists know giant squids exist only because more than 100
carcasses, some as long as 60 feet, have washed up on beaches or
been found in the stomachs of whales or in deep-sea fishing nets.
   "The only creatures who know where they live are sperm whales,
who are major predators on giant squid," one of the expedition's
three leaders, Clyde Roper of the Smithsonian National Museum of
Natural History in Washington, said last week.
   The giant squid is the only animal that will fight the sperm
whale. Many sperm whales have huge tentacle scars on their skin
from battles in the deep.
   Sperm whales surface off the Kaikoura coast of South Island,
"so we'll let the whales be our hound dogs and lead us to the
giant squid," Roper told New Zealand's National Radio.
   He said giant squids have large brains and "certainly the
largest eyes in the animal kingdom -- about the size of a human
head." They also have large, parrot-like beaks for biting prey.
   "But we have no idea exactly where they live, how they live,
their orientation in the sea, whether they live in pairs, alone, in
schools, or what they eat," Roper said.
   He said the expedition is prepared to send cameras as deep as
10,000 feet but expects to find giant squids at 1,000-1,600 feet.
   Video cameras will record for up to eight hours at a stretch.
Bait attached to the cameras will be released in hopes of
attracting squids.
   A computer-directed submersible built by the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology equipped with a video camera also will be
used in the hunt, recording sound, depth, temperature, light
intensity and other data.
   The project's two boats will spend six weeks exploring the area
known as the Kaikoura Canyon looking for giant squids and also
studying other marine life at deep levels.
   Wally Stone, whose Whalewatch Kaikoura company takes tourists on
whale-viewing cruises and is helping with the project, said the
Kaikoura Canyon is like "being in outer space." Little is known
about its ecosystem.
   The scientists hope to study sperm whales with the
"crittercam," a small video camera that can be attached to whales
with a dissolvable tether. The football-size cameras trail along
after whales taping their activities.
   The team's request to New Zealand's Department of Conservation
for permission to attach the cameras to whales brought some
questions from the public about cruelty to the huge underwater
mammals. The scientists say there is no danger to the whales,
likening the procedure to a child's inoculation.
   The tethers are attached to whales with tags about the size of a
paper clip that are pushed down into the blubber about three
inches, National Geographic scientists say. The 18-inch tether
dissolves in about two hours and the camera floats free.
   Defending the tags, Stone said he wouldn't support any action
that would harm the sperm whales because his Maori company's
business depends on them.
   "We have the most to lose," he said, "so we won't do anything
which jeopardizes the whales in our waters."
Received on Thu Jan 30 1997 - 16:15:29 EST

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