Colossal squid – what’s happening?

What’s happening with the colossal squid? Why haven’t we put it on display yet? Well the short answer is that good things take time – and money.

While the specimen is happily sitting in its storage tank, slowly preserving in the formalin, the squid team is planning for the next stage – how to put it on display at Te Papa.

There are a few things for us to consider – not least is how to build a tank to store it in that also lets visitors get a really good look at the specimen. We need quite a big tank to hold our 4.2 metre long colossal squid, weighing 495 kilograms.

And when you combine the weight of the squid, with the weight of the tank and the liquid, that’s quite a floor loading. So there are only a few places within the Te Papa building that we can put the tank and the squid in.

What are we going to tell you about the colossal squid? What would you like to see in the exhibition? These are all questions that we are now exploring as we develop the exhibition.

We’ll keep you posted through the blog on how we’re going, and give you a bit of an insight into the crazy world of exhibition development at Te Papa.

If you do have any questions for us, let us know!

12 Responses

  1. Pamela

    Hi Dawn
    I’m interested to hear you are developing an exhibit on creatures of the deep and will feature the colossal squid.

    If you wanted to feature the Discovery Channel documentary on the colossal squid on your website you would need to negotiate rights to this directly with the Discovery Channel, not Te Papa.

    Let me know if you would like details of someone you could contact about this – you cn email me on:

  2. Dawn larsen


    is there any way to get permission from you to include the discovery channel’s documentary on the colassal squid for our website. We are putting together a creatures of the deep travelling exhibit in may 2009 featuring the colossal squid (all artifical replicas and multimedia show 6000 sq feet). but we’d like to start creating a buzz with your documentary. Can you indicate how we’d get permission to post it on our website?

  3. pamelalovis

    Hi Jamie
    It’s great to know that you’re enjoying following our squid project. For now the best thing to do is to keep an eye on this blog, here on Te Papa’s website.

    We’ll be moving the squid from its temporary storage tank where it is being “fixed” into its specially made display tank in mid August. The squid will still be in our research and storage facility, so won’t be on view to the public. That will require another move later in the year, as part of the installation of the colossal squid exhibition.

    It will be quite an operation to move the squid -as you can imagine – 495 kilograms of colossal squid lifted out from one big tank of fluid into another, without dropping it, damaging it or losing any bits… We’re planning to bring you some photos of the move so I hope you’ll come back and check out the blog.

  4. Jamie

    Hi all,

    I live in the United States and have become fascinated with your project. What’s the best direct link to watch the squid progress, so that my kids and I can keep watching. AMAZING!!!

  5. Jackie

    I can’t wait to visit the exhibition. It all sounds so exciting!
    Definitely worth a trip to Wellington – just for the squid!

  6. pamelalovis

    Hi Barney, yes it’s going to be quite a mission, designing a tank to show the colossal squid in.

    There are lots of things for us to consider and we’re right in the middle of getting a proposed tank design at the moment.

    At the moment we’re planning to keep the squid in glycol, rather than formalin. There are lots of safety considerations around having such a large volume of formalin in a public building, like Te Papa, which is why we’re investigating the use of glycol instead.

    I’m going to put up a more detailed post about the display tank next week, as I know there’s lots of interest. I’ll try and answer some of your questions in more detail then, so hope you’ll come back and have a look.

  7. Barney

    Wow, sounds like a great tank, what sort of glass/acrylic are you going to be using? Must be some large pressures on something of that sort of volume.

    Is there any special consideration you have to make for the formalin?


  8. pamelalovis

    Hi Jackie
    Thanks for your thoughts. We’ve been thinking of including nearly all the things you mention in the exhibition, so that’s good! Are you sure you haven’t read our “concept document”….??

    We think it’s going to be very important to try and show people what the colossal squid would look like living in the deep ocean. So we’re hoping to develop a computer animation of this – a bit like the Search and Destroy animation Te Papa developed for the Whales Tohora exhibition, featuring a sperm whale diving down to hunt a giant squid. The animation could include other deep sea creatures to help understand how a colossal squid compares in size.

    Exploring the vision of colossal squid is also going to be a feature of the exhibition. We really want to tell the story of the biggest eyes in the animal kingdom, how these are thought to work and what we think a colossal squid might see. We’ll be talking closely with our friendly scientists at Lund University in Sweden to help us with this.

    We’re at the stage of putting our thoughts and ideas for the squid exhibition into an “Exhibition Concept Document”. It includes things like a description of the exhibition, an outline of the display tank to be constructed for the squid, the audience, exhibition design, interpretive media such as audiovisuals and interactives, online projects, marketing, and, of course, the all important budget.

    This is one of the stages we go through with exhibition development at Te Papa. The concept document will get discussed by senior management and if approved we move onto the next stage, called “Concept Design”.

    Thanks for your interest.

  9. Jackie

    I think what we’d like to see are some images of how it would look like in the ocean and how it would have lived and hunted.
    Maybe some size scales as well with squid and it’s prey. Like the size of squid and whales and other deep sea creatures next to each other.
    And anything that would help us imagine how the squid would be like alive. Animation video?

    Close ups of beak and eyes. And how the eyes work. And what the squid sees: the world through his eyes.

    How it hunts.

    Thanks for the update!

  10. Chris Paulin

    The squid was a gravid female – she had many thousands of small immature eggs in the ovaries. We kept the specimen intact, but there is a small rip in the mantle so we were able to examine the eggs. There are some images in an earlier blog post.

    As no male specimen has been found we do not know much about the colossal squid reproductive biology.

  11. Cathy

    I had heard that the squid was pregnant, and that she had thousands of baby squid inside her. True or false? If true, what happened to them? Where are they?



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