August 30, 2012

Beware the tentacles

LANDLUBBERS SOMETIMES ask me if I’m frightened of the open sea. Well, of course, I am. Any sensible sailor knows what can happen out there, and those who survive are the ones with the greatest respect for the sea. I’m also scared of what’s IN the sea, especially sharks.

But those same landlubbers are often surprised when I tell them that my greatest fear concerns sea monsters. Anyone who goes to sea knows that you should be more afraid of tentacles than jaws. Sharks are well known and understood. They’re a visible threat with known consequences. It’s the mysterious giant squid that puts the fear of god into honest seafarers.

David Attenborough, the famous adventurer and biologist, says in Life on Earth: “Squids grow to an immense size. In 1933, in New Zealand, one was recorded that was 69 feet long, with eyes nearly 16 inches across, the largest known eyes in the animal kingdom.”

Even so, we haven’t yet discovered the biggest squids because they are extremely intelligent and difficult to catch, Attenborough says.

He concludes that it’s by no means impossible that the kraken and other legendary sea monsters that are said to be able to rise from the deep and wrap ships in their tentacles, really do exist.

Meanwhile, next time you’re out at sea and you catch a squid on a trailing line, take care. Michael Greenwald, an author and yachtsman, caught one of about 30 pounds in mid-Atlantic. It squirted him in the face with a powerful acid and tried to drag him overboard. By the time he had struggled free, and washed his face, the acid had eaten holes in his woolen sweater.

Jaws might be a good name for a horror movie but tentacles are much more frightening.

Today’s Thought
The mind which knows how to fear, knows how to go safely.
— Publilius Syrus, Sententiæ

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(28)“Don’t worry, sir, he can’t possibly drink it all.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Don P said...

I'm with you, and I wouldn't swim in the ocean for love or money. I marvel at how scuba divers can do it. Personally it's the octopus that haunts my dreams. Even a moderate sized devil fish can squeeze through a scupper pipe, slither up to the V berth with their angry, goat like eyes aaaand....

On the other hand the tentacles are quite nice when barbecued. A fresh shark steak can rival the best cuts of beef and the fins make lovely soup. Years ago a local fish plant used to smoke squid bodies and sell them as pub snacks. Accompanied by a wedge of lemon and a Bulmer's Strongbow Cider they were ambrosia. I'll bet a 69 foot squid stuffed and roasted on a spit would put a pig roast to shame.

Ah yes, If I meet my demise in the maw of a shark, squid, or octopus, or even if I drift to the bottom among the crabs and lobsters, I guess they might consider it just deserts. So I'll stay in the boat armed with a dinner fork and tartar sauce and they can chance their arm(s). I won't go down without a fight!