Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Thursday, November 15, 2007




The Deep We Never Knew

One of the most influential geniuses of our time, Buckminster Fuller, pointed out that we as humans are crowded on a single continental island in the middle of a vast planetary ocean. While we think we know a lot about our planet, as it turns out, we certainly know far less than what we think. Such gross ignorance about most of our planet is dangerous, at best, and outrageously irresponsible under any circumstances. It means that while we struggle to understand what influence we may be having on the planet, if we don’t even know what lies within three quarters of it, then how can we even assume we can fix the very problems we are creating? Such is the logic of the Atlantica Expeditions that seeks to solve part of that problem. But, see what has just been discovered off Hawaii – a fantastic, never before seen creature being dubbed a “OctoSquid”. This from the Honolulu Star: It's a squid, it's an octopus, it's ... a mystery from the deep.

What appears to be a half-squid, half-octopus specimen found off Keahole Point on the Big Island remains unidentified today and could possibly be a new species, said local biologists.

The specimen was found caught in a filter in one of Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority's deep-sea water pipelines last week. The pipeline, which runs 3,000 feet deep, sucks up cold, deep-sea water for the tenants of the natural energy lab.

"When we first saw it, I was really delighted because it was new and alive," said Jan War, operations manager at NELHA. "I've never seen anything like that."

The natural energy lab is a state agency that operates Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park in Kailua-Kona, adjacent to one of the steepest offshore slopes in the Hawaiian Islands.

According to Richard Young, an oceanography professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the specimen tentatively belongs to the genus Mastigoteuthis, but the species is undetermined.

War, who termed the specimen "octosquid" for the way it looked, said it was about a foot long, with white suction cups, eight tentacles and an octopus head with a squidlike mantle.

The octosquid was pulled to the surface, along with three rattail fish and half a dozen satellite jellyfish, and stayed alive for three days. According to War, the lab usually checks its filters once a month, but this time, it put a plankton net in one of the filters and checked it two weeks later.

The pitch-black conditions at 3,000 feet below sea level are unfamiliar to most but riveting to scientists who have had the opportunity to submerge. The sea floor is full of loose sediment, big boulders and rocks, and a lot of mucuslike things floating in the water, which are usually specimens that died at the surface and drifted to the bottom.

"It's quite fascinating," War said. "When you get below 700 feet, it's a totally different world. Lots of fish have heads like a fish and a body like an eel. There are fish floating in a vertical position, with the head up, and don't move unless they're disturbed."

Christopher Kelley, program biologist for the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, went to the natural energy lab Tuesday to pick up the preserved octosquid, rattail fish and jellyfish, which had been stored in a freezer, and brought them back to UH-Manoa's oceanography department.

"It's a beautiful squid. It's a gorgeous ruby red color," Kelley said. "We really enjoy these little mysteries that come up."