Comments & Curiosities:

What’s pink and white and squishy with coal black eyes and really long tentacles? Not Lady Gaga, no. The correct answer is giant Humboldt squid.

Yes, they are back, with a vengeance. They show up here every so often, cruising the California coast and whipping local fishermen into a squid-induced frenzy. But this year is different.

According to expert squidologists like Davey’s Locker manager Chris Cunningham, this is the biggest invasion of the super chubby Humboldt’s that he has seen in his 25 years in the charter fishing biz.

“For the last couple of weeks we have seen sea lions with squids in their mouths. There were even reports of dolphins with squids,” Cunningham told the Pilot.

Aside from the fact that sea lions and dolphins could use some table manners, what are Humboldt squid, where do they come from and why are they called Humboldt squid?

Are they from Humboldt County…Eureka maybe? They are not. Kansas? Negative. There are no squid in Kansas. Did they go to Humboldt State? They did not. Squid are home schooled.

According to squidophiles, they are from South America, oddly enough. They are named for the Humboldt Current, which I’m guessing was named for somebody named Humboldt and which runs along the western coast of South America.

Most importantly, these are not your garden-variety, sissy la-la calamari that you know and love when lightly fried. These are bruisers.

Most in this latest tour group from America del Sud are two to three feet long and weigh 20 to 40 pounds, although the ones on steroids can be 6 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds.

But even the largest Humboldt squid are shrimps compared to their really big brothers, the giant squid, or “Architeuthis dux,” which is Latin for “Archie and the ducks.” No it isn’t. I made that up.

True giant squid, which are rarely seen, and don’t think we’re not grateful, can grow upward of 30 feet and weigh hundreds of pounds. Now that’s a squid.

By the way, giant squid were one source of the terror-filled tales of sea monsters by ancient mariners long ago and far away, which is understandable.

When you’re in a 50-foot boat in the open ocean in 1595 and a 30-foot squid from Ecuador wraps its tentacles around your bow and says “Hola, hombres!” it gets your attention.

That sea monster mysteries were pretty well cleared up by the time Jules Verne wrote “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” when giant squid attacked Professor Pierre Aronnax’s iron-hulled submarine, “Nautilus.”

Flash forward to 2003 and the Atlantic coast of South Africa, and you’ll find a squid story that goes directly into the “Truth-is-Stranger-than- Fiction-Seriously” folder. During a round-the-world sailing race that year, a 50-foot French trimaran called the Geronimo started to vibrate badly. It didn’t take long to figure out that the problem was the 30-foot giant squid wrapped around one of the boat’s outrigger hulls. Oh, and the race’s grand prize? The Jules Verne Trophy.

Okay, fine. But I am still amazed that after centuries of scary squid stories, there still has been no “attack of the giant squid” movie.

It would have made the perfect 1950s horror flick, only with giant slippery squishy things instead of pods from outer space.

There was “Attack of the Giant Leeches” (1959); “Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman” (1958) and the excellent re-make with Darryl Hannah (1993), which was itself parodied in “Attack of the 50-Foot Chihuahua from Outer Space” (1998). “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (1978) is a cult classic, and you may not have seen “Attack of the Red Neck Mutants (1986) and “Attack of the Killer Refrigerator (1990), which I can’t believe I missed.

But my favorite cheesy scary film of all time is “Night of the Lepus” with Janet Leigh and Stuart Whitman (1972.)

If you haven’t seen it, you need to rent it at your earliest convenience. Stuart Whitman is a scientist doing genetic research with rabbits in the Arizona desert.

He inadvertently creates a horde of mutant, 10-foot tall bunnies that roam the desert at night and do really scary stuff, or try to anyway. The problem is the spooky scenes were shot with real rabbits and obviously no one realized that rabbits are really cute whatever size they come in, even a 10-feet-tall version crushing miniature cars and knocking down model buildings.

Every time Leigh unleashes one of her trademark hair-raising screams, they cut to a close up of a giant bunny wriggling his pink nose and the audience roars.

I think that’s it then — Humboldt as in squid, not Kansas, giant bunnies and Jules Verne.

“Before my eyes there wriggled a terrible monster,” Professor Aronnax related. “It was a squid of colossal dimensions, about 25 feet long. I counted seven of them wriggling around the Nautilus, and I could hear them grinding their beaks against the iron hull.”

Oh for heaven’s sake, professor, stop whining. Have you never seen an Architeuthis dux before? It’s like a calamari, only bigger. Get over it.

I gotta go.


PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at ptrb4@aol.com.

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