The next day we decided it was too dangerous to put John, Barsam
and Dave in the same boat again. It was a serious threat to their
welfare. It also jeopardized the day for the rest of us, because
we'd have to follow them around hoping for a repeat. So, risking
life and limb, I joined the Barsam-John team and Dave went with
Peter and John Boyd. Doug and Bill were in the third boat.
We fished together for most of the uneventful morning, catching only
a modest number of bottom fish. So far, it was ho-hum. Barsam,
the most competitive fisherman amongst us, was bored. So our boat
split off from the others in an all out effort to produce the
winning catch. We had been checking out the south side of Piojo
with the others, and motored north, up the outside of Smiths. We
were headed for Coronidita, off the north tip.
When we hit the north end and turned west, we were approaching
the smaller island when we noticed a disturbance on the surface
of the water in front of us. We stopped the boat and watched.
There were no birds working anywhere nearby. The water was
undulating in waves from something stirring it from below. It
wasn't looking like bait or larger fish working the surface. We
decided to drop down. The bottom here was about 200 feet. We all
had Salases on and had just dropped in and were going down, maybe
All three of us felt a gentle pull on our lines at the same time.
"I thought I had a hit but it went away."
Hey, me too. It was just a swipe."
"Same here." echoed John.
We were only a few yards beneath the surface, nowhere near the
bottom. We each offered a little resistance to the outgoing line.
There was no tug, but something was wrong.
"Maybe we got all three lines tangled stopping so quick."
"I'm bringing it in.:
"Me too." We began to reel in.
"I've got kelp." Bar surmised.
"There's still something on my line."said John.
"We're tangled, I told you." I said.
There was still something there. It wasn't a fish. But it didn't
act like fouled lines either. It was a dead weight, and we all
had the same problem. Within a few seconds we were all about up.
We each peered over the sides of the boat, confused about what
was happening with our lines. The day was windy and we couldn't
see beneath the surface.
Within two or three seconds of each other all three lines hit the
surface. Barsam's was first. His line literally jumped ten feet
out of the water. There was some thing, a big thing, on the end
of his line, and the thing had control not only of the sea, but
of the air too, because it flew from the surface of the water,
into the air and blasted Barsam in the chest with a jet of enough
black water to throw him backward in the boat and almost rock
John and I overboard.
"Holy shit!" we howled simultaneously. As we fought to try to
keep from falling and managing our own lines, I could only spare
a terrified glance at the wild thing that had attacked Barsam and
fallen from over our heads into the boat! On its way into the air
I had caught a sideways glimpse of it, almost a shadow, but it
was huge and able to attack out of the water. It was at least
five feet long. Other than that I couldn't identify its shape at
In the mean time, only seconds after Barsam's adversary landed,
the same thing happened to John and me. Two other creatures
sprang from beneath the water and launched at least ten feet into
the air, shooting jets of black water that smashed into us and
then falling from the air into the boat. Now the three of us were
struggling to keep upright and trying to identify and avoid the
creatures. But we were in chaos; if we could just stop the ruckus
for a single second we could look around and know what was
I caught a solid glimpse of a tentacle and suction
cups coming over a seat. Barsam had the gaff in one hand and his
pole in the other. John was standing on the center seat. The
first creature was slowly closing the short distance between
itself and Barsam. Things had stabilized enough now to see that
we had stumbled into a school of giant squid. Three of these
guys, between five and six feet long, were in our boat. But they
weren't after us, as it had seemed. They were just trying like
hell to get out of the boat and back into the water.
As things calmed down, I looked around. Ink was all over the
three of us as well as the boat. There were twenty linear feet of
writhing squid filling the boat, and they were mad as hell. We
whacked them each a few times with the butt of the gaff to keep
them from either suffering or attacking us, and sat down to
When we got back to La Gringa our pals were there, cleaning their
own catch. Cameras were broken out when we lugged the three giant
squid from the boat. We had to hold them even with our shoulders
to keep them off the gravel. We separated the mantels from the
rest of the beasts and wound up with about forty pounds of
beautifully pure white meat.
Untypically for a guy's trip, one of
us was prepared with a seafood cookbook that just happened to
describe how to clean fresh giant squid. Cold beer in hands we
set about the task, Bill reading the instructions while John, Bar
and I responded.
We set two big pots of seawater on the Coleman
to heat and stripped off the tentacles and upper body (the part
that looks like the head of the squid and fed those parts to the
birds. This left the mantles, one per squid, a tubular mass of
pure white and flawless flesh some fifteen inches in diameter and
an inch thick. These we cut into squares about 8 inches to a
Once the water was heated to just below boiling we dropped
some of the squares into the water and let it poach for a minute
or two. When we removed the squid from the water the squares were
warped more to one side than the other. From the tighter side we
then stripped off a thick (just several mils thick) "skin". From
the other side we removed a thinner strip of like composition.
Bar, John and I repeated the process until we had a huge quantity
of processed flesh, some of which we dredged in flour and garlic
and sautéed in butter on the spot. It doesn't get too much
better than that. The rest we froze and took back to the States.