23 Feb 2006

Diablo Rojo [Red Devils]

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The Humboldt Current is back off the cost of Northern California again this winter, and with it vast numbers of Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas). The San Francisco Chronicle’s Tom Stienstra tries to scare us.

The most horrifying vision for a scuba diver is not the silent charge of a 20-foot great white shark.

No, it gets worse than that.

The ultimate nightmare of the deep is to encounter a pack of Humboldt squid and then face being devoured in a series of softball-chunk sized bites as they compete for each scrap.

These giant squid reach six feet and 180 pounds, armed with sucker discs with 25,000 to 60,000 teeth, as detailed in a Chronicle story a year ago (archived at sfgate.com). They have 10 tentacles, including two long tentacles they use to pull their prey in to their razor-sharp beaks. They school in roaming hordes and then gang up to swarm in feeding frenzies. When set off, they will even eat each other and anything else in their path.

They have returned for a second straight year off the Bay Area coast this winter, roaming the marine seamounts, often 400 to 2,000 feet deep.

A report has been confirmed that that a group called Seawolves Unlimited has not only led dives amid the Humboldt squid, but has filmed the encounters and attacks.

“In order to safely dive with the Humboldt squid, they use diver protection platforms and wear armored wet suits,” said Craig Buttner, who previewed the film.

At one point, you can see squid try to eat a scuba diver, but are repelled when they clasp onto the armor, Buttner said.

The 45-minute video now in post-production will be shown for the first time at a free seminar called “Dancing With The Demons.” The event is scheduled March 10 at 7:30 p.m. in Millbrae, 10 minutes south of the San Francisco Airport, at the New Vision United Methodist Church at 450 Chadbourne.

Buttner says it’s a clear, high resolution copy shot in the crystal waters in the Sea of Cortez. I’ll be getting a copy as soon as available to provide a synopsis.

The show is sponsored by the Northern California Underwater Photographic Society. video excerpt

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National Geographic also has a video on the “Red Devil” Squid.

Scott Cassel article Dancing with Demons.

Those yearning for close encounters of the cephalopoidal kind can book a trip here.

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