Defrosting of colossal squid attracts global interest

01:43, Jan 31 2009
ICE AGE: Te Papa technician Mark Fenwick, Dutch biologist Olaf Blaauw, AUT biologist Dr Steve O'Shea, Dr Tsunemi Kubodera and AUT biologist Kat Bolstad inspect the colossal squid being defrosted.

The thawing of a frozen colossal squid in Wellington is attracting global interest.

Squid experts watched anxiously yesterday as the half-tonne "squidcicle" was hauled from a deep-freeze and carefully winched into a 7000-litre saline bath.

A blue tarpaulin in which it was wrapped was carefully cut away, and the squid left to defrost.

The process should take two days.

The beast, believed to be up to eight metres long, will be examined by squid experts, who have gathered in Wellington.

But they will have to act fast, or the squid will start to rot.

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Te Papa natural environment director Carol Diebel said it was hoped the squid could be eventually put on display at the museum.

"So we'll be leaving most of it alone, and only taking a few bits and pieces."

Its sex is not yet known.

However, finding out should not be too difficult – a male would have a penis up to two metres long.

The squid was hauled from the icy depths of the Ross Sea near Antarctica by a fishing vessel San Aspiring last year, and has been on ice at Te Papa's storage depot. The squid was frozen into an "accordion shape", with the fishing net that caught it still wrapped around it, Dr Diebel said.

Colossal squids are bigger than giant squids. Their tentacles are equipped with razor-sharp hooks, to drag prey toward the powerful beak.

Te Papa's is one of just half a dozen colossal squid caught intact.

The saga of the thawing squid has attracted news media interest from Australia, Britain and the United States.

The defrosting is being shown on Te Papa's website, which has recorded thousand of hits from all over the world.

The Dominion Post