I saw a documentary a while back about the Romans, focusing on their early experiences with archaeology. Turns out, they dug up fossilized remains, then reburied them out of reverence for the creatures they thought they had discovered. Unfortunately, they sometimes misinterpreted the way the bones they had found actually fit together, leading them to believe that what they had unearthed were titans, dragons, meduasae, etc. Today we smugly tell ourselves that none of these creatures actually exist. Will o’wisp are actually methane rising out of swamp water; mermaids were imaginative takes on manatees; the sasquatch is a fraudster running around in a monkey suit; vampires were based on psychopathic Rumanian and Russian rulers that slaughtered their enemies or virgins. But, I just learned, not everything that goes bump in the night (or in the ocean) is made up.
A mature Humboldt squid can grow to almost six feet in mantle length (that means “not counting the tentacles,” party people), and there was one caught off the Gulf of Mexico that was almost 19 feet long. I’m pretty sure that’s the one that laid a beatdown on the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The fact sheet from the National Zoo notes that these fockers are “extremely aggressive,” and that they hunt in schools of up to 1,200 squid. So, if one of them doesn’t pick up your boat and throw it past the horizon, one of his thousand buddies will. These guys are the black mambas of the sea. And they’re eating all the fish.
I know some stuff and probably watch more than my share of the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. How did not know these things were real? It seems like every couple of years, the media goes into a (pardon the pun) feeding frenzy over a shark attack or two, panicking everyone from staying off the beach in Ocean City or San Francisco or Miami, so how have they managed to ignore badass armies of squid cruising the Eastern Pacific? How have we not been subjected to two competing semi-realistic Hollywood blockbusters, like “Tentacles of Doom” or “The Calamari Strikes Back”? How much do those shark-proof chainmail suits cost?
I thought these were just legend. Finding out about these things opens whole new worlds to my imagination – what else exists? Are farmers out in Idaho really getting probed by aliens? Are there great white sharks out there with vendetta against New England sheriffs on their mind? I can’t wait to see what slithers out from under the bed next.