“Carlos, my last grant request was rejected,” said Dr. Octavian.
“The NSF one, Wili?” asked Carlos. “Have you heard anything yet about the one I wrote to the Coleman Foundation?”
“No, not yet. But from what I understand it doesn’t look promising as they are shifting their focus from oceanic biological to oceanic physical science.”
“Looks like no one wants to learn more about gigantic squids. You know, it’s funny. The one person who is really interested in learning more about squid lights and possible communication is Jessie’s daughter, Ceci,” said Carlos.
“Because her father was killed by one?”
“Not really. I think she is just intrigued by the idea that they might be very bright if you’ll pardon the pun.”
“How old is she now?” asked Dr. Octavian.
“Going on eight. And she’s constantly webbing for information about them. She probably knows as much about giant squids and gigantic squids as anyone in the field,” said Carlos.
“Well then, I will need to think about reserving a fellowship position for her in about fifteen years,” Dr. Octavian said. “Or maybe by then you will be the director and can do it for her.”
The Sea Defender.
After feeding all summer in Alaskan waters, Grey whales headed to southern waters to give birth and to mate. The Sea Defender, a reconditioned Chinese Navy mine sweeper, patrolled between Alaska and Baja Mexico as the annual migration began in earnest in September. Gigantic squids too were aware of the whales’ migratory pattern and collected along the route.
It did not take long before some of the Sea Defender crew members planned to act on their belief that losing even one more whale to the gigantic squids was one too many. Buoyed by their success in finally shutting down Japanese and Norwegian whaling, they weaponized two water drones affectionately nicknamed “tin tuna-1 and -2,” although they weren’t actually made of metal but carbon fiber, and stowed them on board.
But the ocean is wide and deep and the Sea Defender trolled back and forth with sonar along the whales’ route without success. The crew was feeling frustrated.
“Mommy, the news tonight said that the Blue Seas Coalition is going to kill gigantic squids if they attack Grey whales,” said Little Ceci.
“That’s because they feel they have proof that attacks by squid are harming the whale population,” said Jessie.
“We know that orcas also attack baby Grey whales and yet no one wants to protect whales by killing orcas,” Said Little Ceci.
“Orcas are warm blooded and look cute with their black and white color pattern. It wasn’t that long ago that orcas were still used in sea life shows and everyone loved to see them perform. Gigantic squids are more like sea monsters to people. Remember I showed you the stories about Kraken? That’s what people associate with gigantic squid.”
“That’s so unfair. Just because they’re coldblooded and ceph—ceph—cephalopods, it’s okay to just kill them, even if they are intelligent,” said Little Ceci.
“I know you think that they’re intelligent, but remember, most people don’t think so or just haven’t thought much about it.”
“Carlos also thinks they may be.”
“But Carlos has no proof either. In science you need to back up what you believe to be the case with data that supports what you believe,” said Jessie.
“Well,” said Little Ceci, “people didn’t use to think that people could learn to communicate with great apes either, but now we can, and the killing of apes in Africa has almost stopped because of it.”
“In that case, Ceci, you’d better learn to communicate with the gigantic squids quickly so that you can show that they are intelligent and change people’s minds about them,” said Jessie.
The Sea Defender.
“We’ve seen plenty of whales but this time no squid attacks like we saw in the spring.”
“Maybe there were more attacks on the spring trip back to Alaska, because mothers were traveling with calfs that delivered around Baja. Easier pickings for squid.”
“You’re itching to try the drones, aren’t you?”
“Only to protect the whales.”
And finally, after almost a month at sea, they saw on sonar what they had been looking for.
“Look at that. Grey whale and squid. Lucky we got here before the squid got hold of that whale. We’ve got to save it.”
“You want to deploy the drone, captain?”
The crew hoisted tin-tuna-1 up from the swaying deck, lowered it over the side, activated the drive mechanism and saw it dive below the six foot swells. In the sonar room, the operator watched and steered tin-tuna-1 as it closed on the whale and squid.
“Can’t you make it go faster, it looks like the squid has fastened onto the whale!”
“Got it floored, captain.”
The explosive charge was set to explode on contact.
“Be sure not to ram the whale. We don’t want to torpedo what we’re trying to save.”
“I’ll try, but the two are pretty close to each other. Okay, here we go. Closing in.”
The resulting explosion was felt back on the ship, and a spout of water from the explosion leaped from surface of the sea. On sonar, the squid’s single image was replaced by smaller irregular pieces, but the whale, although still intact had also stopped moving.
“Oh Shit! I think it got the whale too. Must have been hit by the shock wave.”
“That warhead’s too powerful.”
That’s all the arms dealer had.”
“Look at the screen. There’s another squid approaching. I think it’s going after the whale.”
“Damn scavenger. Get up the other tin-tuna, I’m not going to let it get the whale.”
“Captain. We don’t know if the whale is still alive. Why waste a drone on the squid when there may be other whales to protect?”
But perhaps driven by guilt over harming what they had been trying to protect, the captain would not be deterred. Tin-tuna-2 was launched and propelled itself towards the squid that was circling the motionless whale. Squid Number 15 turned towards the tin-tuna, reached out with one of it’s long arms to grab it and in the process, brushed against the detonator, blowing itself up
“We got it!”
“Yeah, but the whale still isn’t moving, and look, here come two more squid.”
Number 21 flashed to Number 5, “Above-water-liver (AWL) shell send funny fish kill 15 and 82. Safe me-you go close?”
Number 5 flashed back, “If see funny fish, me-you go away fast. me-you take whale more deep—eat. Take big-big part of 15 to eat too.”
Number 5: ”me-you eat. after, talk with other me-you, do what.”
Aboard the Sea Defender, the crew in the sonar room watched in frustration as they saw the two squids swim away into deeper water with the carcass of the whale.
“They’re getting away with the whale and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Not this time, but yes there is,” said the captain. “We can raise awareness of what’s happening. People love whales. They eat calamari. We can raise money to buy more drones and start protecting the whales. We just need to calibrate the explosive charges better.”
“Is that legal?”
“Who’s going to stop us?”