A replica of the “squidcicle” is being used to determine how long the colossal squid will take to defrost. Freezing upwards of 1,000 litres of water to minus 20 degrees Celsius has taken several days – the two metal posts help freeze the central core of the block, which otherwise would take longer to freeze as it is ‘insulated’ by the outer layer of ice!
First, the ice was simply left to thaw which took five days, then the block was refrozen and thawed again in running water. The second thaw with running water took only 36 hours.
What we don’t know is how the squid tissue will affect the rate of thawing! Some polar organisms have a type of ‘anti-freeze’ in their tissues. For example, Antarctic cod have minute quantities of glycoprotein in their blood: these chemicals, known as polypeptides (also produced by other vertebrates, plants, fungi and bacteria), permit the animals and plants to survive in subzero environments. The chemicals bind to small ice crystals and inhibit the growth and recrystallization of ice that would otherwise be fatal. (As a result of recent research into these chemicals isolated from antarctic fish, manufacturers can now produce very creamy, dense, reduced-fat ice cream without the icy texture usually associated with low-fat frozen desserts!).
Using the block of ice we were able to test our crane and lifting gear that will be required to get the squid ice-block into the tank. Trevor Tutt and Mark Fenwick removed the ice-block from its crate and container. They then attached four 2500kg lifting strops to the ‘pretend specimen’. Four strops will be used to provide twice the lifting capacity to be absolutely sure that what the last photo shows doesn’t happen to the squid!