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  Field Notes From

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Squid On AssignmentArrows

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From Photographer

Brian Skerry

Squid On Assignment

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From Author

Roger Hanlon

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Marcia Skerry (top) and Roger Hanlon


Squid On Assignment Photographer Squid On Assignment Photographer

Field Notes From Photographer
Brian Skerry

Best Worst Quirkiest
    After working on this assignment for almost two years, I took my final dive at the Channel Islands off the California coast. It was absolutely amazing. The water was clear, and when I got down to about 110 feet (30 meters), I started seeing acres of delicate squid eggs lying on the bottom, swaying with the current. Thousands of adult squid floated around me. Some were even mating, which is a rare behavior to witness in the middle of the day. I'd never seen anything like it. 
    You can only spend about 20 minutes at that depth, so it wasn't long before my time was up. As I left the bottom and swam up the anchor line, I remember looking back and seeing—for what seemed like miles—all of this activity below me. Everything had come together on my last day, and it was just a magical moment. I've tried to keep that image burned in my mind because to me it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

    One night I went with a commercial fishing boat off the California coast to take pictures of fishermen catching squid. But I didn't take a single photo because around midnight my boat got into a turf battle with another boat. The men on my boat started yelling and, before long, the [men on the] other boat began firing at us with a shotgun. Bullets literally grazed the hull. Nobody cast a single net that night, and I spent the night waiting for things to settle down.

    Humboldt squid are not only creepy, they're cannibalistic. Mexican fishermen catch them to sell to Korea, and once they hook one, schools of Humboldt come to the surface looking to get a bite out of their captured kin. Like other squid species, they have eight arms, two tentacles, and parrot-like beaks that help them rip out chunks of flesh. The arms and tentacles have sucker discs lined with teeth that help them latch onto their prey. There were about a hundred fishing boats in the Gulf of California at the time, so I got to watch this happening all over the place—while I was still in the water. 


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