The Giant Squid

Jun 04 2009


Photo by Emilie Bourque

If you want to keep a giant squid as a pet, you need a very large tank. You might be better off visiting The Rooms, where a female giant squid, or Architeuthis, is preserved in an 800-gallon tank.

She was found washed ashore in Hare Bay on Nov. 10, 1981, and is the third last specimen of about 60 to have been recovered in this province to date.

Fred Aldrich was a marine biologist whose work at MUN’s Ocean Sciences centre in Logy Bay focussed on giant squid. He studied the deceased specimen before donating it to the old Newfoundland Museum in 1987.

Then after being cooped up in a 300 litre tank for 20 years, her tentacles coiled round and round, she got her big break. Plans were made for a tank 10 times the original size at The Rooms, enabling her to be laid out straight.
So how’d they move the big girl who weighs between 250 and 300 pounds?

“It was a logistical nightmare,” laughs Randy Batten, who is the natural history collections manager for The Rooms’ provincial museum division.

The first tricky part was getting her out of the toxic bath. Alcohol and formaldehyde, both toxic and flammable, are two common preservatives. With the health and safety issues involved in putting her out on display to the public, Batten says they decided use a non-toxic alternative called propylene glycol in the new tank, which has similar fixing and preserving properties.

Four men wearing hazardous material suits floated her up, slipped a tarp under her and hoisted her out of her old home and into a temporary holding tank.

Then, Batten says, they drove her in a van to Parade Street, where the natural history facilities are currently located, and went to work. She was cleaned up, and minor repairs were made where arms had to be sewn up or loose skin removed.

Mmm… dead squid surgery.

On Nov. 18, 2007, she was carried over in her temporary tank to The Rooms. With more tarps and brute force, she was hoisted into her present home, where now all 29 feet of her lay comfortably stretched out.

— Emilie Bourque
Suggestion for a nook? nooks@thescope.ca

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