Hunt for the giant squid
Severine Hannam equ- ates being part of an expedition to capture the first footage of a giant squid in its natural environment to climbing a mountain.
‘‘I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. It takes so long to prepare and you don’t know if you are actually going to reach your goal.’’
Auckland War Memorial Museum’s collection manager says very little is known about the giant squid except that it’s a very tasty morsel to a sperm whale, which makes it an important part of the food chain.
There are lots of theories about the huge sea creature, but they’re based on observations of shallow water squid. Scientists still don’t know how long a giant squid lives, how big it can grow or how it reproduces.
The aim of the expedition was to film a giant squid for a joint documentary project between Japanese broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel.
It will premiere on SKY TV’s Animal Planet on September 2.
Mrs Hannam was invited to join the expedition by her AUT masters supervisor Steve O’Shea.
It’s not the first time they have teamed up in search of a giant squid. In 2011 they were part of a group which spent a month on the Sea of Cortes in Mexico. That trip was unsuccessful.
This time they spent 40 days at sea in mid- 2012 with two other marine scientists, another research assistant and film crews.
They were stationed off Japan’s Bonin Islands, where several giant squid have been caught by fishermen in recent years.
Each scientist had their own ideas about how to lure the creature.
Dr O’Shea’s method involved mincing 200 kilograms of giant squid. It was Mrs Hannam’s job to prepare the stinky mixture.
The squid meat was easy to come by. Dr O’Shea has a freezer full of it.
When giant squid wash up dead on New Zealand’s shores people often send them to him for his research.
The ‘‘ squid shake’’ was designed to give off pheromones that would hopefully attract a male squid.
It turns out the shake wasn’t the way to go, but the team spotted squid anyway. The scientists spent up to six hours a day in submarines and separate sightings of two three-metre-long giant squid were made about 600 metres below the surface.
Mrs Hannam says it was partly a case of being in the right place at the right time.
‘‘The giant squid has been chased around the world by scientists for many years. The reason it hasn’t been found is they live in water that is so deep and so dark that you don’t come across them all the time.’’
Being in the submarine was an unforgettable experience, she says.
‘‘It was like being in a fishbowl. You can see under your feet and above your head.’’
She was one of the first to see footage of the squid.
‘‘When they are alive they have the ability to change the colour of their skin.
‘‘As you watch it you see it change from a reddish brown colour to gold.
Go to centraleader.co.nz and click on Latest Edition to see footage of a giant squid. Intrepid journey: Auckland museum collection manager Severine Hannam says being one of the first people to see live images of a giant squid was thrilling. She appeared in the East & Bays Courier on July 17.