Giant Squid - Behind the Scenes
Reported September 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The giant squid lives deep in the ocean. Scientists want to learn more about these elusive creatures, but few have been seen or caught. Science is helping preserve the rare deep sea creature forever.
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They’re the stuff old sci-fi movies are made of, but giant squids are not just sci-fi. They’re real, and you can see one for yourself at the National Smithsonian's newest ocean hall exhibit.
One of the coolest, biggest and rarest attractions on display is a giant squid -- but it’s not just for visitors, scientists and museum curators are also using it as an ongoing experiment to test a new kind of fluid to preserve the unique creature.
“Everyone around the world is interested in how this fluid works," Elizabeth Musteen, project manager at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., told Ivanhoe. "We’re continuing to monitor the specimens to see how they perform.”
Traditional preservation methods are flammable, turn yellow over time and strip the color from specimens. Chemists have now created a new fluid, called 3M Novec. It's a safe alternative that gives visitors a more realistic view of the squid.
“It’s also crystal clear, the specimens show off really well in it, and it preserves their color," Musteen said.
The fluid surrounds the specimen and uses specific chemicals that keep water out from any nooks and crannies and protect the squid from rotting. It’s completely non-flammable and non-toxic … but it’s denser than water, causing things to float to the tops of tanks.
"We also had to use pretty creative ways to get the specimens to stay down inside the container," Musteen said.
The preservation experiment continues for 30 years … but for visitors, what the squid is floating in isn’t what’s impressive.
According to the Smithsonian, giant squids can be as be longer than a school bus and can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Their eyes are as big as volleyballs. Carcasses of giant squid have washed ashore and been caught in fishing nets. However, they have never been seen in their natural habitat.
The American Geophysical Union contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report. This report has also been produced thanks to a generous grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
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