In July 2012, the pioneering American financier Ray Dalio invited me to join his research vessel Alucia in Japanese waters. I knew that the Alucia, with its state-of-the-art submersibles also owned by Ray, had been chartered by NHK, the Japanese television company, who had joined forces with the American Discovery Channel for a determined but secret mission to locate and film Architeuthis – the legendary giant squid. I had agreed to join the ship earlier in the year, but something apparently fell through and the arrangement had to be cancelled, much to my disappointment. Suddenly in July, Ray contacted me again and asked if I wanted to drop everything and fly to Japan after all. It was extremely short notice and I had other arrangements, but I was very keen. I guessed that they must have found something exciting and I asked Ray on the telephone. Tantalisingly, he laughed but refused to say. His lips were sealed. That was enough for me. I cancelled all other engagements and prepared for the 12-hour flight from London to Tokyo, followed by the 28-hour ferry crossing to Ogasawara Islands – “the Galapagos of the Orient”– where the Alucia was moored. The ferry journey was tedious, but it was worth it for the prospect of a giant squid at the end of it. I still didn’t know whether they really had found one, or whether something had cropped up to make it look promising. The latter might be even better, as I might then have the opportunity to be in on the discovery.
I was scrupulous in keeping secret the real purpose of my lightning dash to Japan. Amusingly, however, my wife Lalla happened to meet David Attenborough in London while I was away. He asked after me, and Lalla told him I was in Japan – or more precisely on a research vessel in Japanese waters. “Oh” said Sir David without hesitation, “He’s obviously after the giant squid.”
MV Alucia and its owner, Ray Dalio
Arrived on the Alucia by dinghy, I met Ray in the ship’s loading bay where the submersibles were poised and ready to go. I was given the glad news. It was still top secret because of the two TV companies’ publicity scheduling plans, but the expedition had indeed managed to film the elusive giant squid for the first time, using two different methods of luring. That evening there would be a seminar on board, to discuss the two successes. Meanwhile, there was a dive arranged. Two submersibles were going down together. Would I like to go down in one of them?
Of course I would. I was assigned to the larger of the two craft, the 3-person Triton. My fellow passenger was Dr Tsunemi Kubodera of Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science. Dr Kubodera, who was treated with great respect by everyone on the Alucia, had been the scientist chiefly involved in one of the two success stories. The highly skilled pilot sitting behind us was Mark Taylor, an Englishman.
Richard Dawkins about to board the Triton. Photo by Edith Widder
The experience of going down into the deep world was very exciting for me personally but I won’t dwell on it. I was looking forward to the seminar which was to take place in the ship’s saloon that evening. It consisted of two presentations followed by general discussion. The first, by Dr Edith Widder, a marine biologist good enough to have won a MacArthur “genius” award, told how her research on bioluminescence had led her to propose an especially attractive bait for an animal with dinnerplate-sized eyes that lives in the dark depths where no sunlight penetrates. Her lure was an “electronic jellyfish”, whose flashing lights mimicked the sort of prey a deep sea predator might naturally approach, in a zone where the only light comes from luminous animals. Edie’s effort was crowned with success, as she showed us in a striking picture of a giant squid approaching her lure.
The second speaker was Dr Steve O’Shea of Auckland University of Technology. He has studied numerous dead specimens of giant squid in New Zealand, mostly brought up by trawlers, and was understandably keen to find a live one. In his presentation, he described how the Alucia team had finally managed to capture movie footage of a live giant squid by waiting patiently in a submersible beside a bait of a smaller squid. How patiently? Well, the expedition logged a total of 55 dives by the Triton and Deep Rover submersibles together, representing 285 hours under the sea.
There’s a nice CNN interview here with Richard Ellis, author of the (now dramatically outdated) book, The Search for the Giant Squid, in which he enthusiastically extols the importance of the new achievement. Ray Dalio kindly presented members of the Alucia party with copies of this book, among other generous and relevant gifts.
The film clips shown in the Alucia seminar were brief, and so are the tasters released to the press this week. I haven’t seen the full documentary, which was shown on NHK television in Japan this week Here is a brief clip of part of the footage, with Dr Kubodera talking about it. I am very much looking forward to the Discovery Channel version to be broadcast on 27th January under the title “Monster Squid: the Giant is Real”, and my main purpose in writing this is to alert readers of our website to it.
It was a great pleasure and honour to be invited to join the Alucia’s giant squid mission in time for the victory celebrations, although just too late for the achievement itself. There was still a hope of another sighting while I was there but unfortunately, the day after I arrived, the trip had to be cut short. A serious typhoon warning in the area had us scurrying for the haven of Yokohama and – for me – an early return to Oxford.
I would like to thank Ray Dalio for his generosity, and for stimulating conversations on many topics. He is one of that new breed of scientifically enlightened philanthropists who are prepared to put their money where their brain is. He also enlivened a memorable mealtime aboard the Alucia during our dash to Yokohama, by conducting an informal, impromptu masterclass on the current financial crisis. His unusual take on the matter left me closer to understanding it than anything else I have heard or read.Pierwsze filmowanie kałamarnicy olbrzymiej w naturze
Autor tekstu: Richard Dawkins
Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska
Architeuthis, legendarna kałamarnica olbrzymia. Obecnie po raz pierwszy oglądana na żywo w swoim środowisku naturalnym.
W lipcu 2012 r. amerykański finansista Ray Dalio zaprosił mnie na swój statek badawczy „Alucia" na wodach japońskich. Wiedziałem, że „Alucia" z najnowocześniejszymi pojazdami podwodnymi, które także należą do Raya, została wynajęta przez NHK, japońską kompanię telewizyjną, która połączyła siły z amerykańskim kanałem Discovery, do tajnej misji zlokalizowania i sfilmowania Architeuthis - legendarnej kałamarnicy olbrzymiej. Zgodziłem się na dołączenie do wyprawy na początku ubiegłego roku, ale, ku mojemu wielkiemu rozczarowaniu, coś najwyraźniej nie udało się i trzeba to było odwołać.
Nagle w lipcu Ray znowu skontaktował się ze mną i zapytał, czy rzucę wszystko i przylecę do Japonii. Był to bardzo krótki termin i miałem inne zajęcia, ale bardzo mi na tym zależało. Zgadywałem, że znaleźli coś fascynującego i zapytałem o to Raya podczas rozmowy telefonicznej. Roześmiał się, ale odmówił odpowiedzi. Był zobowiązany do dochowania tajemnicy. To mi wystarczyło. Odwołałem wszystkie zajęcia i spotkania i przygotowałem się na 12-godzinny lot z Londynu do Tokio, a następnie 28-godzinną podróż promem na wyspy Ogasawara — „Galapagos Orientu" - gdzie zakotwiczona była „Alucia". Podróż promem była uciążliwa, ale warta zrobienia w obliczu perspektywy kałamarnicy olbrzymiej. Nadal nie wiedziałem, czy rzeczywiście ją znaleźli, czy też tylko pojawiło się coś, co dawało na to nadzieję. To ostatnie było jeszcze lepszą możliwością, bo miałbym okazję uczestniczyć w odkryciu.