We can all do with a check-up every so often – just to ensure things are going ok and we’re not falling apart.
This gives our conservator Robert Clendon, and exhibition team members Hutch and Don a chance to see how the squid specimen is doing, and find out what’s going on in the tank. They are bravely doing all of this in the gallery space – so visitors can watch and ask questions.
The preservation of the colossal squid (the heaviest, bulkiest squid in the world, remember) is an experiment. There are no guarantees! No one has done this before, so Te Papa’s team are learning as they go.
The liquid chosen to preserve the squid in is a glycol-water mixture. The squid has been in this liquid for 2 years. During this time the fluid in the tank has discoloured and there’s been a build of detritus in the base of the tank – both of which interfere with getting a good view of the squid.
We’re not sure why this is happening and that’s why we need to take a closer look and try to work out what is going on. The fluid in the tank will be changed and we’ll be cleaning out the tank.
It will take about 5 hours for the tank liquid to drain out. We can then start assessing the condition of the squid, which will take a few days. Robert will be doing a visual assessment, comparing the specimen with existing photos. He will also test samples of the tank liquid for pH and for biological activity, such as the presence of bacteria or moulds. These results will tell us if the squid is deteriorating or not.
We do know that the squid specimen has contracted in size by about 5% after being in the preserving fluid. Robert is not sure why, but is confident that this is not because the squid is deteriorating – in fact the indications are that the specimen itself is in very good shape.
After the check-up is complete towards the end of this week we’ll be able to make informed decisions about the future of the colossal squid specimen. Once we know more about what’s been going on in the tank over the last 2 years, we can work out how long the squid can be kept on display and how often we need to change the tank liquid.
All of which helps us keep this incredible colossal squid out there for you to see.