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 ten seconds.
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 all.
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 happening.
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 recover, exhausted.
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 side.
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.