Calling Captains Nemo and Ahab

Tales from the deep

This week, reporters raised two fascinating stories from the ocean depths. The first, which got a lot of press coverage, is about a giant squid that washed up on a Tasmanian beach in Australia. As The Sydney Morning Herald reports, “Very few are seen dead, much less alive,” but a number of recent encounters with the school-bus-sized invertebrates have made their way onto news pages. The first photos of a live, giant squid swimming in the ocean appeared two years ago and are mind-blowing.

This week’s second story from the abyss comes from Bloomberg, which has an equally mind-blowing account of a budding industry in private submarines for the ultra rich. Apparently, the individuals (such as Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen) who have purchased the vessels (at tens of millions of dollars a pop, depending on the model) are fanatical about secrecy, and the sub designers guard it fastidiously.

“If I told you, I’d have to shoot you,” Bruce Jones, president and founder of U.S. Submarines, told Bloomberg, referring to the names in his client book. “I build luxury-delivery systems for people who have more money than they know what to do with.” But the secrecy has its downside. Apparently, side sonar scanners on the subs can be mistaken for torpedo tubes by military patrol boats. Another strange fact: apparently, dolphins have an affinity for underwater lovemaking, and have been known to bang their noses on submarine portholes.

Fascinating, yes, but I’m waiting for a giant squid to latch onto one of these subs while a couple of billionaires are going at it. It might ruin the mood, but just imagine two naked tycoons reacting to that predicament. No offense to Melville, but such a scene would put Moby Dick to shame.

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Curtis Brainard writes on science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.