In August 2007, Dr. David Guggenheim, a marine biologist known as The Ocean Doctor, joined the Greenpeace ship called the Esperanza as part of a campaign against overfishing in the Bering Sea. They used submersibles to explore the underwater canyons that host much of the deep-sea life of the region.
While descending into the canyon, Guggenheim reports that the submersible was attacked by some squid. As Guggenheim notes, such behavior is highly unusual. “In all the years I’ve been scuba diving, I’ve never been attacked by a sea creature.”
As unusual as such behavior is, Guggenheim probably wasn't as surprised as the squid. The squid live at depths of about 300 meters, where little light penetrates, and feed mostly on bioluminescent creatures such as lanternfish. In the Bering Sea, they are so numerous Guggenheim called this depth “The squid layer.”
Squid fishing fleets in the Pacific use huge lamps to attract squid by night. Something as bright as the submersible's lights must have seemed like a major meal, and it appears some of the squid decided to feed, clinging to the lights and attacking it with their beaks before leaving in a trail of ink. One of the squid passed through the sub's thruster, getting chopped to pieces in the process, but also blowing a fuse in the thruster, terminating the mission.
Guggenheim identified the squid as Loligo opalescens, commonly known as California market squid, and said they usually grow to 15-30 centimeters long. They are, he notes, fearsome predators in their realm. “Squid are truly jet-propelled. They swim faster than any other invertebrate by rapidly shooting water out of their mantle cavity into a jet stream nozzle they can steer, like a jet boat. Some squid have been clocked up to nearly 15 miles per hour. Their blinding speed, coupled with their armament of two powerful tentacles (in addition to their eight legs), barbed suckers and razor sharp beak, give them quite an edge over their prey, which include small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, among others.”
Although Guggenheim blogged about the adventure at the time, the event attracted little attention. However, for cephalapod awareness week, Greenpeace dug out the footage, placed it on Vine.com and watched it draw the kind of attention that activists usually only dream of.
“In the Bering Sea – where the US catches more fish than anywhere else – long lived coral and sponge communities provide fish and marine life with shelter and nurseries, feeding and spawning grounds,” Greenpeace’s website says. "We must take a precautionary approach and set aside representative portions of critical habitat – such as in the Bering Sea Canyons – as an insurance policy for our future.”