Below the thunders of the upper deep, far, far beneath in the abysmal sea, the Kraken sleepth, wrote Tennyson, proving the beardy twerp a liar who should have stuck to penning moralistic tripe about Arthurian maidens in the hopes of getting a hand up Queen Victoria’s petticoats. Kraken, sea monster, leviathan, whatever you call it, I am here to tell you that the giant squid is this: rubbish.
There are two squid residing in Melbourne at present, one at the museum and another at the aquarium – which, incidentally, has sparked off some fairly vituperative competition between the two institutions (ain’t nothin’ like a nerd fight). But although the two exhibits may vary in presentation (‘Monsters of the Deep’ exploit-o-rama vs. educational diorama; frozen in ice vs. floating in alcohol) both squid retain one important feature in common, this being that they are shit.
I grew up on tales and B-grade movies about vast aquatic monstrosities a’wrassling with submarines; about sailors cowering on the decks of their comparatively tiny ships for fear of the be-tentacled hell-beast looming over them, wondering if they would ever see shore, mother, and a good solid buggering down by the docks ever again. These robust boyhood fantasies have been ruined by the reality of what I saw in the museum last week. It turns out that ‘giant’ is a misnomer that might be best replaced with ‘sort of big, I suppose’. The squid are actually about five feet long, in the body at least, and instead of being able to take down entire ships could probably do no worse than give you a nasty nip. Sure, the tentacles grow to about 15 or 20 feet (What do I look like, a frikkin’ marine biologist? If you want an exact length, go and find an encyclopaedia), but these had rotted down to stubs. You can see more horrific things in the meat cabinet at your local butchers, provided your butcher, like mine, has a healthy attitude about what is and isn’t edible.
In order to distract from how dull the actual creature is, there is a giant TV screen above the not-so-giant squid, which plays a fairly interesting record of how the carcass was prepared for display. Now, the squid’s beak had already deliquesced, and it’s remaining mouth looks, well…distinctly vaginal. Repeatedly on the video scientists shoved their hands inside the beast’s slimey maw. And here is a small but significant tip for if you should decide to visit the museum: when surrounded by dozens of small children, and upon meeting one of your girlfriend’s best friends for the first time, who works at the museum and who has let you in for free, and who is giving you a tour, it is vitally important not to let your otherwise Wildean wit fall by the wayside for a spilt second while watching this video, and announce in a loud voice to all and sundry, “Wow, it’s ages since I’ve seen a good squid fisting”.
Deep apologies to all those parents whose children got more of an education than they bargained for.