A close encounter… with squid
By Sarah Ford
I’ll never eat squid rings again! This is a promise I made to myself after a David Attenborough experience I had diving Arefi Beau, a site in Raja Ampat.
Excitedly it was the first dive of our trip. We went down to about 22 metres and the guide was signalling us to come and look. There on the white sandy bottom in amongst some red coral branches were hundreds of beautiful long milky white eggs. I thought this amazing, as I quickly anchored myself on the sand and tried to remember all I had learnt about my new Sealife DC2000 camera.
Then the dive guide was poking me and pointing up. Coming towards us were about 20 squid. They were flying down gracefully from somewhere up above.
Coming in pairs, the larger of the two then deposited an egg in amongst the existing pile. Strangely to me it appeared to come from it’s mouth! Then they all disappeared up towards the surface, only to return and do it all over again.
I forgot about aperture and shutter speed settings but remembered just to get low and aim up! The squid came very close seeming to be uninterested in me, though giving us a side wards glance as they carried out their business.
What beautiful creatures they were! Translucent, see through. But the thing I loved the most was their gorgeous big round eyes. I could have stayed the whole dive there trying for that one elusive National Geographic Winning photo. But the guide wanted us to move along. The rest of the camera-less group seemed not as enthralled as I was to spend their whole dive there. And you know, you do need to take at least 100 shots to get that one good one!
I spent the rest of the week trying to get the guide to take me back to the site again but his English and hearing appeared to have failed. Then, on my last dive, when he asked what I wanted to see of course I said the squid! So back we went only to find the area strangely still. Fortunately the precious eggs were safe amongst the coral but sadly no sign of the squid themselves. I got the feeling the guide already knew this!
On returning home I found out these were Big Fin Reef squid, or oval squid, and they carry out this elaborate mating event in Raja Ampat around May. Females release 20-1180 eggs per individual and die soon afterwards. That accounts for the fact there were none about on our second visit. The females spawn by passing eggs from their oviducts. These are in capsules containing two to nine eggs which are laid out in single strands on coral branches or other submerged surfaces. And maybe it was good that I wasn’t there to see the eggs hatch out as the hatchlings are often cannibals. Big Fin squid have one of the fasted recorded growth rates of any large marine invertebrate but live less than one year.
For me this was an amazing once in a life time experience. And next time you go for takeaways please don’t order fried squid rings.
Here on this page are my nearly National Geographic photos!