Animal Planet showed a program last night called Squid Invasion, which is a doubly apt title. It's meant to be about the Humboldt squid, a rather remarkable creature, which has recently begun aggressively expanding its territory from the Sea of Cortez where it originated, all along the West coast of the Americas from Alaska to Chile. The second sense in which the title is apt is that the squid themselves are being invaded - by humans!
Seriously, this was probably one of the most ridiculous "documentaries" I have ever seen. I learned four legitimately interesting facts: a Humboldt squid grows from a fertilized egg to a fully grown, 5-foot, 100-lb adult in about a year; the Humboldt's chromatophores look to be different from those used by the mimic octopi I've seen; and the Humboldt is aggressively expanding its territory from its previous niche into a much larger area. The fourth was a neat bit summarizing the surprisingly short development of a squid - not only do they mature fast, they develop fast from the get-go, from egg & sperm to fully functional (if diminutive) hunter in a matter of days (this bit alone justifies the science/biology tags - and a good thing, too, because things are about to go downhill). These are all fine and good, but there was quite a bit more in there, and it wasn't what I would call "educational."
For one thing, the humans talking on the program described the squid as "alien" at one point, and one guy even shoved an endoscope into a live specimen and referred to it as "probing," then laughed as the squid hurried away after he released it back into the water. Did he not consider that the squid might be swimming for its life after being abducted and probed? Also, during the probing, the squid's three hearts were beating "fast," which I am hesitant to quote because I don't really have a frame of reference here - but it seems not to have occurred to our host that an unexpected endoscopy might be a stressful situation for a subject, perhaps resulting in an elevated heart rate. But I don't know, I'm not a doctor. What do you think?
For another thing, the same guy who probed the squid also attempted to do a nocturnal filming with a night-vision camera to catch the squid behaving "naturally," i.e. without knowing they were being observed. As soon as he was in the water, he started getting attacked, so Mission Failed right there. Moreover, the night vision camera (which was probably not designed for underwater use) was so sensitive that it was picking up the bioluminescence from microorganisms and unable to focus on the squid themselves. So the boat turned on its light in order to fix that, whereupon the crew discovered that there were far more squid in the area than they had expected. Yet afterward, this guy proclaimed his efforts a success. By what measure, might I ask? He abused a piece of sensitive equipment, failed spectacularly to achieve his goal, and ended up being forced to retreat. That's like the definition of an epic failure.
Additionally, this same guy wanted to attach a camera to a squid so he could watch them go hunt something. I thought he'd put a tiny camera in an unobtrusive place, which would broadcast a radio signal so they could see what was up. Nope! This yahoo goes and puts something about the size of a handy-cam right on the squid's fin, attached by a wire to the boat. It was a long wire, but still! After making some wild conjectures about what some flashy color-changing might mean, this asshole watched in fascinated glee as the poor squid was attacked by her peers and then devoured alive. When the rest of the squid started attacking the camera, Dive Man remarked that the camera doesn't look like food, but they were still attacking it - seemingly oblivious to the possibility that the foreign object was the reason his victim was attacked in the first place. For all the time spent on talking up the squid for their intelligence (they may be capable of language, which seems to me a good indicator for self-awareness), these schmucks sure don't seem to have taken that into account.
Finally, they tried to transport a live squid to a research facility to study it, and failed at that, too. Immediately after catching it, the squid was placed into a cooler, of all things, and then driven for several hours. Yes, a cooler. Like, the thing you'd fill with beer & ice for a party in your garage. It might have been a Coleman, maybe an Igloo, I didn't get a good look. Unsurprisingly, the specimen did not survive the trip - which event was described by one bright member of the team as "ironic." Last I checked, irony involves defying expectations, and my expectations were that safely removing an animal from its natural habitat is often a tricky proposition. I want to throw these people out into space and watch them explode, then call their deaths "ironic." OK, not really, but it would be poetic. And illegal.
In conclusion, after watching this show and some of the ads on the channel, it has become apparent to me that Animal Planet is like the Discovery Channel, but for people who just want to gawk at animals. If you want an excuse to drink, get a fifth and watch this program - you may need to be hammered to withstand these hooligans.