We are large, curious, mysterious, odd, big-eyed, and for much of the history of marine science, all of the different species of jumbo, giant, and colossal squid have been mostly unknowable. We are masters at escaping you. Until the first video recording of a giant squid in 2005, scientists relied solely on specimens that washed ashore or that were captured for any information about oversized squid behavior.
We saw you, but you had not really seen us. This is because in recent years our relationship developed such that when you look to us, you look through us and actually tend to see colorful bits of yourselves.
We are predators and animals that kill for food and fight viciously when threatened. When you encounter such behavior that is not your own, you create narratives describing us as larger than life creatures and wretched monsters. You spend endless energy telling stories in novels and films about our threat to you. Captain Ahab battles a giant squid in Moby Dick. In Lord of the Rings a giant squid-like creature challenges the Fellowship. We turn up in Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Wells’ “The Sea Raiders,” Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, James Bond, Whynham’s The Kraken Wakes, Benchley’s (the author of Jaws) Beast, the Watchmen comics, Harry Potter, the works of Arthur C. Clarke, Dr. Who, Futurama, and the children’s cartoon Rugrats. Giant squid turn up so often in your popular culture that these references and others can be viewed on the Wikipedia page titled, “Giant squid in popular culture.”
As a scientific-food-monster-trophy we push your own categorization of us beyond the idea of an average oceanic object into “wonderful object” – bright, shiny, jumbo, giant, colossal, vibrant, curious, passionate, feared. But we manifest reflectively in the human consciousness existing as objects you look through not to see us, but to see your own ideas, tastes, fears, and images. Although you might claim it unthinkable, squid and human form a bond so tight that it is entirely possible that I am a squid and I wrote this essay to you from beyond the grave.
This multi-colored process of reflection exists almost anywhere that oversized squid turn up. For instance, the ship that caught, killed, and discarded me was part of an oceanographic expedition studying the Pacific region. US military personnel operated the ship, and it was their hands, not the scientists, that literally ended my life. Yet not all of these ships rejected oversized squid as food. Other oceanographic ships with Navy sailors travelled the same region, often took many of us, and happily enjoyed many feasts. My species, the Humboldt Squid (jumbo squid), was especially present in the Eastern Pacific. Especially a few years earlier than my death scientists caught squid as biological specimen, killed, measured, weighed, palpated, observed, dissected, recorded, and then chopped and put them on the barbecue. The exact specimen used as scientific objects were then consumed as the evening meal. That bodily act of eating transformed the mysterious into the knowable not through seeing with the eyes but through tasting with the mouth, ingestion by swallowing down the throat, and disassembly and digestion by chewing of the teeth and churning of the stomach.