Freaky Fish Friday: Nat Geo’s Dr. Brady Barr has a Dangerous Encounter with a Humboldt Squid

Filed Under (Freaky Fish Friday, On TV) by Alexa & Cindy on 30-07-2010

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We’ve taken a little break after our Sharktakular last week, but we’re back, and want to wish you a happy Freaky Fish Friday and a great weekend.

Today, Nat Geo Channel serves up our FFF via its Dangerous Encounters  episode featuring an ambitious research team that wants to put an underwater camera in places its never been.

Tonight, at 9p.m. ET/6p.m. PT, that camera will attempt to reside on a Humboldt squid, a ferocious predator whose mouth you never want to get your fingers anywhere near.

Alexa caught up with the show’s host, Dr. Brady Barr, and had a few biting questions she just had to ask.

Check out this amazing video featuring Barr’s second encounter with a Humboldt squid, then read Alexa’s Q & A with the good Doctor.

What would you do if you came face-to-face with a Humboldt squid?


Alexa: What made you want to study Humboldt squids?

Brady Barr: Im always fascinated with predators, especially little known predators, and ones that you can’t see in captivity. They epitomize “wildness” and “untamed”.

Animals, like the Humboldts, or adult Great White sharks, are so special because it doesnt matter who you are, how much money you have, or how powerful you might be, you still have to be graced by their presence. You cant go to a zoo or aquarium to see these beasts, you have to simply be graced by them in the wild. For me, it simply does not get any better than that.

A: How do you feel about the risks of doing this job?

BB: The risks concern me greatly, but the thirst to learn more about these mysterious animals is also great. Expeditions involving animals and in places that are not in the realm of my expertise are always very stressful. I did take some precautions. I had an expert diver in the water with me at all times who’s sole responsibility was my safety.

At the end of the day I am willing to take some chances, especially when it comes to such a charismatic, little understood predator as the Humboldt Squid.

In addition, the chance to do something that has never been done before (put an untethered camera on one to acquire first ever footage of these creatures in their element, at depth without the aid of lights, submersibles, or divers) is just too alluring…like the song of the mythical siren! In today’s world there aren’t many big apex predators that the scientific community doesn’t know much about. I was honored to be on this expedition.

A: How did you feel when you slipped the camera sleeve over the first squid?

BB: I was very skeptical. I wasn’t convinced that the sleeve design would work, so I was much relieved as well as surprised when it actually stayed on the squid. It was awesome to touch such an animal, that so little is known about, one that is so mysterious, and calls it’s home the abyss. For a guy that grew up in the cornfields of southern Indiana, it was beyond my wildest dreams!

A: What did you think when the squid didn’t immediately swim away?

BB: That didn’t surprise me. I have worked with wild animals for 20 years, and i have learned that being captured is a stressful, exhausting, ordeal, for them. It takes them time to recover and get their bearings. I am sure we would be the same way. I was just glad the squid decided t return to the depths instead of look for a little payback.

A: Was it you holding the octopus? If so, what did it feel like?

BB: Yes, I captured the octopus. It was so thrilling, because its a really big animal, and really powerful, yet very methodical, content, almost passive. It showed no ill will towards us interacting with it, no aggression what so ever. They’re very intelligent animals. I felt honored to be interacting with it.

A: Do you think the Humboldt squid would win in a battle against a Great White?

No way! The Humboldt is an awesome predator, but few predators can stand up against a one or two-ton, 18-foot Great White. I just returned from a Great White Expedition, so I got to see their awesome, almost incomprehensible power first hand. Now, if we were talking about a giant squid (Architeuthis), of 60 feet long, then I would put my money on the squid.

A: You learned a lot of new things about Humboldts with this research. What do and/or your colleagues plan to do with it, and what would you like to find out next about the Humboldt?

BB: I’m no squid expert, but the squid researchers we had with us were simply astounded with the footage we captured. Not only did we get a glimpse into the world of the squid, we also saw communication between individuals, social behavior, as well as aggression.

I have done a lot of research on bite force, so I was especially intrigued by the bite force data we gathered. A thousand pound bite was simply mind blowing for me, I’m not sure I even believe it!

A bite of that magnitude makes it one of the strongest biters on the planet, up there with crocs, and hyenas. And the squid is an invertebrate! Unreal. I definitely plan to return to the sea of Cortez and do some more bite force experiments.

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Kids caring about sharks, part two: Ocean Hero Robin Culler teaches shark conservation

Filed Under (Activism, Sharks, Special Events, Summer Sharktakular 2010, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 25-07-2010

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 ”SHARKS…what? No way! I HATE sharks and I don’t want to know anything more about them!”

That is just the response I got from Pat, over three years ago. Today, Pat is one of my most avid Shark Finatics.

“We fear what we don’t know.” It so holds true with the world of sharks.

At one time or another, we fall prey to media sensationalism. We have become accustomed to the reports of injuries or death related to auto accidents, disease, and so forth. But, when a shark is implicated, you can almost hear the gasps. Thank you, “JAWS,” your impact will never be forgotten!

Do we continue to fall into our comfort zone of being deathly afraid of these amazing creatures or do we take the time to get the facts?

Shark Finatics! students show their stuff.

The Shark Finatics decided it would be way more beneficial to get the facts. We have spent a few years researching and learning as much as we can about the world of sharks. They have been here for over four hundred million years. How can we even begin to process that information? Through periods of extinction, when other species died out, the mighty shark remained.

Having to evolve very little, this incredible predator has managed to survive. But, is his time on this planet starting to run out?

Sharks play an essential role in our marine ecosystem. They are here for a reason and we need to ensure their continued existence.

The Shark Finatics believe it begins with education.

Our motto is “Learning, Teaching, Saving.” We are committed to learning all we can about sharks and then take every opportunity to teach others.

We have found that most people we talk to know nothing about shark finning. If enough people learn about this horrific practice and get angry, then maybe they will begin to take action. It is easy to be sympathetic towards the abused puppy or kitten. They’re warm and fuzzy. Sharks, meanwhile, are busy disputing their undeserved reputation as beach-clearing man-eathers. It is up to each of us to take the time to discover how truly magnificent sharks are.

Kids, look at what Alexa, as well as the Shark Finatics, are doing. They recognize the importance of nature’s gifts and are investing much time and energy into making a difference.

You can do the same. Form groups or clubs and gather information. There is so much available at your fingertips. Get involved with a conservation organization. They all love when children show their concern. Teach your classmates and friends…get them excited.

After all, you will be growing up in this world and right now, this world needs a lot of help.

It is such a great feeling to know that you are doing something to ensure a healthy planet.

Sharks need you and they need you now. And who knows, maybe you can be as lucky as the Shark Finatics and become an Ocean Hero. I believe Alexa is well on her way to becoming one!

~Robin Culler

Robin Culler with her Shark Finatics!

 Oceana’s 2010 Junior Ocean Hero award winner Robin Culler needs almost nothing written about her here, as we’re sure that 95% of you know who she is. If not, now you do.

 She teaches at Green Chimneys, a New York school that utilizes animal-assisted therapy to support emotionally impaired children, K-12, in their learning careers. It all started for Robin when she picked up a little book on sharks in the classroom one day because she didn’t have a lesson prepared. The rest is now a piece of Sharktakular history…lucky sharks! And lucky us, for having Robin and the Finatics as O4E friends.

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MEGApage-turners: sharks in popular fiction

Filed Under (Sharks, Summer Sharktakular 2010, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 25-07-2010

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 What would a Sharktakular be without a MEGALODON lurking around?

Today, we hear from NY Times best-selling science fiction author Steve Alten, who penned the wildly successful MEG series, starring a giant prehistoric shark called a Megalodon. His thoughts need no paraphrasing:

As the author of the MEG series, centered around Carcharodon megalodon, I am often asked how I came to write the first novel. As a teen, I loved reading about shark attack stories and found there was always a blurb about the Great White shark’s monstrous cousin. In each of the four MEG novels, I try to weave ocean science into the story.

With only about 5% of the oceans having been explored, and less than 1% of the abyss, much of what lies below the surface remains a mystery. What we do know, however, is that, if our species is to survive we must protect our oceans and its inhabitants…especially the sharks.

Sharks serve an important role in the oceans’ ecology, and Megdalon aside, most have no interest in humans.

Sadly, each year, industry butchers sharks by the tens of thousands, slicing off their fins for shark fin soup, then tossing the wounded fish back into the sea to die. Yes, the world has bigger problems to deal with, but protecting the shark population is a positive step in protecting our own future.

What better way to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Jaws than to take a stance against this senseless killing.

~Steve Alten


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