It was baptism by tentacle. Humboldts—mostly five-footers—swarmed around him.
November 28, 2011 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Cassell first heard about the "diablos rojos," or red devils, in 1995, from some Mexican fishermen as he was filming gray whales for German public television in Baja's Laguna San Ignacio. Intrigued, he made his way to La Paz, near the southern tip of Baja, to dive under the squid-fishing fleet. It was baptism by tentacle. Humboldts—mostly five-footers—swarmed around him.

As Cassell tells it, one attacked his camera, which smashed into his face, while another wrapped itself around his head and yanked hard on his right arm, dislocating his shoulder. A third bit into his chest, and as he tried to protect himself he was gang-dragged so quickly from 30 to 70 feet that he didn't have time to equalize properly, and his right eardrum ruptured. "I was in the water five minutes and I already had my first injury," Cassell recalls, shaking his head. "It was like being in a barroom brawl." Somehow he managed to push the squid-pile off and make his way to the surface, battered and exhilarated. "I was in love with the animal," he says.

How Stuff Works: Up Close and Dangerous

Extended Google talk by Cassel, previously. "They have 36 to 50 thousand teeth, and there they are deployed on the camera."
posted by Blasdelb (16 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I saw a documentary about this. The gist of it was that squid that had been hooked transmitted there distress to those around them, and pretty soon you had a roiling mass of panicked squid all around.
posted by No Robots at 2:29 PM on November 28, 2011

How is it he doesn't sink straight to the bottom with brass balls that big?
posted by Splunge at 2:53 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

In Soviet Ocean, calamari eat you.
posted by not_on_display at 3:07 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

huh. cassell sounds kind of like the grizzly man of squid. gotta dig him scoffing at some bullshit SCIENTIST who doesnt have FIBERGLASS SQUID ATTACK ARMOR
posted by beefetish at 3:10 PM on November 28, 2011

I saw thousands of these in La Balandra, near La Paz. It was awesome (as in awe inspiring). Several hundred managed to get beached during the night and the stench of their decomposing bodies forced us to move our little camp.

I did not know how dangerous they are at the time, I am happy we decided not to go swim with the squid.

The beached calamari episode spawned a local meme. It involves bloody condoms on the shower floor. We were young, dirty and horny.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 3:17 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cassell slowly drifts through the water as the Humboldts circle around him. They have finally learned that his fiberglass bodyarmor was too strong for their tentacles and beaks, so they keep their distance.

Finally, one large, scarred, old squid jets towards Cassell, and looks him over with those human-like dishplate eyes.

In one tentacle, it holds a barnacle-covered, slightly rusty pair of scissors. You know the kind, the handle is at an angle from the blade, so they can slip in between things. EMTs use them to cut through wedding rings and denim jeams and seat belts...

..and maybe thin sheets of fiberglass.

Despite its junky appearance, the blade edges of the shears have been sharpened to a mirror finish.

Cassell tries to swim away, but the smaller squid already have him by the arms and legs...
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:33 PM on November 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

Here's some video
posted by KokuRyu at 5:44 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

The sea and islands (Espiritu Santo, Partida) off La Paz are a magical place. I lived shipboard for about 6 months in the harbour there, and swam with sea lions, dolphins, whale sharks, hammerheads swarming off a 'magnetic' seamount, and much more.

Also, drank a lot. Which added to the whole magical element, perhaps.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:01 PM on November 28, 2011

The Humboldt range is extending northward. We had a big swarm here off Southern California two months ago; mass beachings, and crazy fishing -- one sport fishing boat came back with 990 squid.

Cassell once saw one fiddling with the latch of an underwater cage he had just closed.

posted by eddydamascene at 8:40 PM on November 28, 2011

I always ask people, "Ants, crows, or squid? Which will end humanity?" I now ask you, mefi.

(My own answer is crows. Who knows what a few of them could do with their dextrous little beaks....)
posted by cthuljew at 12:05 AM on November 29, 2011

I'm now thinking of crows adapting scissors...
posted by arcticseal at 12:46 AM on November 29, 2011

I always ask people, "Ants, crows, or squid? Which will end humanity?"

Or cockroaches?

I'm firmly convinced that the descendants of cockroaches will one day walk on the moon.
posted by illongruci at 4:14 AM on November 29, 2011

Cockroaches will outlive us all, surely, but they won't be the ones actually responsible for destroying us.
posted by cthuljew at 4:28 AM on November 29, 2011

You seem very certain of this. Do you live in an area where there are cockroaches? I'm not there now, but I come from Brisbane, where there are lots - and I've seen them occasionally behave in a spookily intelligent way.

But if I have to choose out of your list, I'd go for the ants. Much harder to stop than crows.

(Incidentally, it's a cool question. I'm going to definitely bring this up next time a dinner party gets boring.)
posted by illongruci at 5:34 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

But are they TASTY???
posted by Theta States at 9:06 AM on November 29, 2011

To be honest I'm about 5'9".

posted by humboldt32 at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

« Older "You can’t regret your fate, although I do regret...   |   Tick, Tick, Boom Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments