Flying Squid?

Sailing Through Sea and Sky! Amazing Animals, part 3 of 7

by Calvin Smith on April 26, 2021
Featured in Calvin Smith
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Seeing James Bond, Ian Fleming’s iconic action hero, dispatch diabolical villains with tricky martial arts techniques, gimmicky gadgets, and his trusty Walther PPK was an exciting afternoon cinematic diversion for me growing up. And his exotic (if mostly imaginary) modes of transportation never failed to inspire hours of make-believe action and adventure playing inside one of my dad’s old vehicles.

An especially inspiring favorite was the modified Lotus Esprit used in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, that famously transformed from sports car to submarine, complete with rear-firing windshield mud, a sleek silhouette, and underwater missiles.

In reality, there were eight different vehicles used in filming, because no vehicle contained the complex design necessary to operate in both environments. It was either one or the other, land or sea. However, the idea of a hybrid sports-car submarine blew my imaginative young mind.

Truth Often Stranger Than Fiction

This fun fact leads me to another childhood pastime that my cousins in Newfoundland introduced me to: “squidin’.” For those of you who’ve perhaps participated in slightly more elegant methods of catching squid (out in a boat with jiggers to hook or nets to catch them), you may not relate as well to the rather ignoble method I was initiated into.

My first catch was after dark in the shallows of the bay in Roberts Arm, where my cousin Dale and I simply ran into the foamy sea, reached into the briny water, and threw them unceremoniously over our shoulders towards shore (often having them thud off the shoulders, head, or chest of whoever was behind at the time, ink squirting everywhere).

Later, we’d gather them up and look at them more closely. And as amazing a creature as the squid is, with all of the intricacies of its 10 tentacles, birdlike beak, and streamlined silver chassis, the last thing that I ever thought I would discover is that this underwater marvel was dually designed to fly!

“Flying” Squid

You heard that right: certain squid species can launch themselves out of the water to soar above the ocean for distances up to 160 feet at up to 11.2 meters per second! To understand how impressive that is, remember that the fastest man ever recorded (Olympic Games gold medal winning runner Usain Bolt) averaged 10.44 meters per second. Considering Bolt has been clocked at 44.72kmh/27.8mph, perhaps we should coin the phrase “faster than a speeding squid.”

Fabled accounts of this flying ability had been described for centuries, with many a seafarer and water-craft aficionado reporting random squid occasionally appearing on decks seemingly out of nowhere. And researchers had long suspected there was something strange about them, as they seemed somehow able to migrate to various locations much faster than their calculated underwater speeds allowed for. But the credibility of their supposed flying ability was downplayed immensely by their physique.

Squids Know Rocket Science!

However, videos have captured flying squids several times now, leading scientists to determine the specific actions squid perform to enable flight: they accelerate five times faster in air than in water. Their four phases of flight are launching, jetting, gliding, and diving.

By filling up and then forcing out water from their hyperinflated mantles at high velocities, squids propel themselves like rockets up and out of the ocean. Once above the water, they contort themselves into an aerodynamic shape. Their fins catch the air like wings, webbed tentacles curled, creating flat surfaces that enable them to glide on air currents like an exceedingly well-made paper airplane.

Groups of over 20 squid have been seen flying together, and their flight patterns aren’t simply passive, but rather actively guided as they change posture based on distance from the water and phase of flight. When ready to re-enter the water, squid simply fold back their fins and tentacles to smoothly minimize impact and begin swimming immediately.

As hard as it might be to imagine your favorite calamari soaring overhead, by simply watching them swimming around or while served up on a plate, your favorite calamari isn’t just an underwater creature; it’s a master of the air too. But how could these creatures have acquired such incredible design engineering and the integrated genetic programming to enable them to master multiple environments?

What Goes Around Comes Around

Interestingly, futuristic engineer and business magnate Elon Musk (of Tesla fame) bought one of the eight original Esprit prop vehicles (specifically, the underwater version nicknamed “Wet Nellie”) used in the film The Spy Who Loved Me for nearly a million dollars. He purchased it from a couple who’d procured it in a blind auction of an unclaimed storage unit for only a hundred dollars some 20 years earlier.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one impressed by Bond’s car growing up, as Musk said,

It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button, and have it transform into a submarine underwater.

In 2013, Musk explained to the auto blog Jalopnik why he purchased it:

What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.1

So far, Tesla says that they have a design, but they haven’t produced anything yet. However, Tesla’s team is truly impressive, so we’ll have to wait and see. But even if they do pull off this marvel of engineering, what exactly would it prove? It would prove that something so incredibly sophisticated needs incredibly gifted minds, the best of the best, all working together to design and manufacture it. The brain power required would be truly impressive. Yet it would absolutely pale in comparison to all that a humble squid can do.

Understand, I am not downplaying Musk’s genius or his various companies’ team’s capabilities, such as his SpaceX Aerospace company. Regardless of what one might think of his worldview, his ‘Starship’ initiative to develop spaceships capable of interplanetary travel and transportation is truly brilliant and ambitious, and the technology involved is absolutely cutting edge.

However, without getting into the trove of biological technology packed into the simple squid—such as bioluminescence, camouflage, hunting strategies, migratory programming, and much more—let’s just consider one thing all living things can do that his Starships cannot: they can reproduce themselves.

Not to sound trite, but I’m sure Elon Musk would love to make a “Mommy” spaceship and a “Daddy” spaceship, give them some alone time, and have a fleet of ships pop out. But he can’t, and neither can anyone else on the planet. Only God has ever made something that can make copies of itself.

Yet to even invoke Christ the Creator in conversation within the average Canadian high school classroom, let alone University, will likely lead to scoffing and mockery if not outright outrage. The teaching of naturalistic evolution has become so commonplace that belief in God is considered taboo in Western culture. Unfortunately, many Christian leaders have been so browbeaten by this barrage of humanistic teaching that many have bowed the knee and endorsed it, further increasing the boldness of secularists and furthering its acceptance.

Those Christians who’ve compromised with evolutionary ideas should remember that the very reason people are “without excuse” is due to what God created, not what he supposedly evolved or allowed to evolve.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

This week’s question for theistic evolutionists: How could people be held accountable to knowledge of God by what He made (per Romans 1:20) if the creation appears to have made itself (i.e. evolved)?

Footnotes

  1. Tom Huddleston Jr., “Couple Paid $100 for Abandoned Car They Found in a Storage Unit—Elon Musk Bought It from Them for Nearly $1 Million,” CNBC.com, Dec. 1, 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/01/couple-paid-100-for-car-elon-musk-bought-it-from-them-for-6-figures.html.

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