Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Squid and a Whale


An Oceaneering Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) caught this footage of the mysterious Magnapinna squid from a depth of 2.5 kilometres! The "elbowed" squid was visiting the Perdido drilling site in the Gulf of Mexico. The species Magnapinna was only first reported in 1998 by University of Hawaii biologist Richard Young. Hanging around our ROV, the elbowed squid resembles a Martian War Machine.

Humans know very little about the deep ocean, and the life of gigantic squids has been a mystery. They were known only from specimens washed ashore, never seen in their natural habitat. Today we know that squid often hang vertically, trolling for fish. Our deployed ROV's have revealed many mysterious forms of life to scientists.

Magnapinna are common around the world in the permanently dark zone below 1200 meters. Once it was thought that life required sunlight to survive. Now we have found entire ecosystems including large, intelligent creatures like this one. When a robot from Earth first encounters life in oceans of Europa or Enceladus, it could look a lot like this.

Lately humans have disagreed over drilling offshore. Having spent time with gulf sea creatures, I can report their opinion as "Drill, Baby, Drill!" Each oil platform is an instant reef to which marine life flocks. Perhaps the abundance of fish drew the squid in. Humans have learned a lot about drilling and rarely have spilled oil, even during Hurricane Ike. The oil that naturally seeps from the ocean floor is far more than humans release. Despite their controversial opinion, sea creatures wisely choose to stay out of politics.

A sperm whale kisses the drill rig and scratches its back on the ROV cable. "So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish!"

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