Humboldt Squid Dive

This is a dream dive my brother and I both hope to make someday, and most people think we're crazy for it!

A smallish Humboldt Squid. They're supposed to be good for sport fishers. This one is pretty beat up...

The Humboldt Current Squid is one of the smallish members of the Giant Squid family. They are so named because they're found in the Humboldt Current in the Gulf of California and Sea of Cortez. Mexican fishermen are terrified of them, and refer to them as the "Rojo Diablo" or Red Devil. They have seen men quickly devoured when they fell into the water with them. They have been seen as far north as Monterrey, so I suppose its not impossible one could encounter some while night diving. They need a warm current to come very far north, however.

Normally, these squid hunt at night, and go much too deep to encounter divers during the day. Typical specimens are 5-6 feet in length, but they have been known to grow as large as 14 feet. These biggest ones weigh as much as 700 pounds. Think of them as being like the undersea equivalent of large aggressive Dobermans--and they attack with at least equal ferocity. These ocean predators typically hunt in packs as well, with 10 to 15 squid being a common sized shoal, although shoals of squid numbering in the hundreds have been seen too. They each have over a thousand suckers on their tentacles and each sucker is ringed with teeth that dig in. Squid are known to have the fastest reaction times of any creature on Earth, due to the unusually large size of their nerve fibers. Perhaps this accounts for the amazing speed and ferocity with which they attack their prey.

It is mandatory to have some protection from these animals. You can't dive with them in a wetsuit with no other protection and hope to survive. They have no hesitation about trying to attack and eat divers. The usual approach is a cage, much like what one would use with sharks. It is necessary to be sure the openings are very small--usually chicken wire is added to the bars--because these animals have no skeleton and can squeeze through very small openings. The cage will also make a convenient apparatus on which to mount bright lights, which will help to attract the squid as well as making them easier to see as they approach. Some divers have used armor, sort of like what Star Wars Imperial Troopers have that covers their arms, legs, torso, and head. The squid will have a propensity to have several distract you while the real strike will come from behind. They have large beaks like parots (or larger), and can take a golfball sized chunk of flesh out of you if they bring the beak to bear. Basically, they are killing machines. If one lands a tentacle on bare skin, or even wet suit, it is going to be like a nasty animal bite.

As they move through the water the squid use bioluminescence to communicate among one another, and perhaps to attract their prey. They can flash colors incredibly rapidly and very brightly. In fact, the film I've seen of them does not look like anything natural at all--the colors are so vivid and rapidly changing you'd swear its some kind of electrical apparatus at work. The colors include green, white, red, and pink.

If you want to dive with these squid, be prepared to go to a lot of trouble. Aside from the cage and lights, you'll need to be prepared to dive between 70 and 200 feet, where you are most likely to find them. You must also be prepared to chum the water to get them to come. You will need to dive over water at least 1,000 feet deep, so there will be no bottom. It'll be a midwater experience, with the squid flashing in and out of the darkness very suddenly. Squid can drag a diver down deep, and have been known to remove dive computers, regulators, and anything else not nailed down. Some divers have used cables to firmly anchor themselves so they can't be dragged too deep. Supposedly the best time of year is late summer and fall, when they migrate to shallower water to lay their eggs.

Now that's some Calamari!

All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.