How to Measure a Giant Squid Arm

Here is a sentence that I've been wanting to write for a long time: "I swam down into the blue and retrieved the arm of giant squid."

I know. For most people, doing something like this isn't a life goal. I get it. I'm not normal.

But it doesn't matter, because I did it, and it's something I'll never forget.

giant squid arm

Here's the condensed version of what happened:

While we were cruising along in deep water looking for signs of sperm whales, the captain's wife shouted something from the top deck. I looked up and saw her gesturing frantically, but with the combined noise of the engine, wind and ocean swells, I could neither understand what she was saying, nor grasp the reason for her excitement.

Following the time-tested principle of "act first, think later", I grabbed my mask, snorkel, fins and camera and jumped into the water. Visibility was excellent. I immediately saw a long, reddish object sinking into the blue...and swam down about 10 metres to take a closer look.

giant squid arm

As I approached the squid arm, my brain finally kicked in (the "think later" part), and I realised that the only reason a rapidly sinking giant squid arm would be at the paltry depth of 10 metres is if a sperm whale (i.e., large animal with big mouth) had just dropped perhaps only seconds earlier.

At that point, I looked around in a brief moment of panic (or sanity, depending upon your point of view)...thinking that perhaps the whale that had dropped such a tasty morsel might not appreciate my absconding with it. Fortunately, the previous owner was nowhere to be seen, so I avoided becoming whale food grabbed the squid arm and swam back to the surface.

We kept the arm segment on ice until the next morning, when we had sufficient space and light to measure it, then donated it to the research community.

Below is a short video of fellow underwater photographer Douglas Seifert measuring the (pungent) squid arm:

[flv: 480 270]