This story in the local news about Squid appearing along the coast of Vancouver Island in Port Hardy caught my eye a few months ago. These odd ocean beasts are Humboldt Squid, named by Alexander von Humboldt, a Romantic-era naturalist and naturphilosophe of some renown. Curiously, they’re rarely found this far north, living in the warmer waters off California, Mexico and even further south.
Like beached whales or a sudden plague of locusts, these curious appearances prompt us to recall the dynamism of the living world, and its connection to all the natural phenomena around us — like changes in weather patterns and climate, both short term and long. In response to this highly unusual (even unique) phenomenon, one is driven to seek answers, to find links between cause and effect. This may be a fruitless endeavor, but it’s also an altogether human one. Perhaps this fatal migration was brought on by a lack of food. Ocean scientists have recently reported, for example, on the development of a “dead zone” in the Pacific along the coast of Washington and Oregon. Could it be that these creatures swam north through what we could call a kind of ocean “desert”, and were trapped as a result of an unwillingness to head south again because of lack of food?
Weather was undoubtedly a factor. It’s an El Nino year, and there are clear climactic factors associated with this. One is a general warming trend, particularly along the Pacific coast (ed. note: This is why the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver are probably doomed). Certainly, given that this last September was the second warmest in 130 years of record keeping, this is important. Perhaps the squid headed farther north than usual because of warmer seas, subsequently losing their way.
When I penned the initial draft of this post, I was also thinking about beasts like the Great White Sharks and sea lions, appearing further up the west coast than usual. Again, maybe the squid moved further north to evade migrating predators.
Like the previous post, however, the Devil’s in the details we don’t know; in the inexhaustible complexity of the living, of the way it challenges us to try, in a heroic but ultimately futile manner, to adapt and respond. Our predilection for order, mechanical linearity and causality mean that we are always one step behind.
These squid are still appearing, but the mystery remains.