My decision and reasons to distance myself from The History Channel’s documentary


Dec 23, 2006
Dear TONMO and all it's members

Last night History Channel premiered a show called: MonsterQuest: The Humboldt Squid Found. One year ago, I worked with the production company to help make this show.

My exposure to this documentary was when I viewed the debut broadcast with the rest of the world on Wednesday, November 14th 2007.

There are several errors in the documentary and since I was directly involved with the expedition as a research facilitator and explorer, I feel ethically obligated to present the facts for what they are and make corrections when errors are made.

I was not involved with the writing of this story, the editing, or the scientific, technical accuracy of this production. The only time I saw the footage of the “very large squid in question” was the day we shot it. I requested a copy of the footage several times to analyze it but was turned down.

I strongly believe that it was Architeuthis (not Dosidicus) but of course cannot confirm it due to the absence of ‘tell tale’ morphological structures like chitenous ring-teeth, wing (fin) shape, and size to mantle ratio and tentacle shape – length.

Below is a black and white of the show. What the documentary claims is titled as Myth. The Facts are presented clearly and a brief Explanation is given. The Explanation does not include my opinion. That is for another forum.

As always, my films, footage, still photographs, observations and diving methodology is available to the scientific and educational communities for the advancement of knowledge and support of on going research.

Myth 1
The squid was 54 feet long

I doubt the squid could be that big simply because the video footage analysis was not done correctly and subsequently over-estimated the size of the creature.

1) The forensic video analyst erroneously identified a scrape on the animal’s skin at the head-mantle intersection was a reflection in the eye. Since the scrape would be a significant distance from the eye, the overall size calculation cannot be used, therefore it is simply not an accurate size assessment.
2) Based on personal experience in situ over a decade of seeing large squid, I strongly believe that the squid in the sequence is large, probably in excess of 25 feet, but considering the quality of the footage a precise size assessment cannot be made.

Myth 2
The “Camera Squid” I was holding was 8 feet long and 200 pounds

He was only 4.5 feet long and weighed an estimated 45-50 pounds

I wasn’t a part of the writing or scientific, technical accuracy. I am 69 inched tall and with long bladed fins am approx 100 inches. If you use that as a scale when watching the documentary you can easily gage the size of the Camera squid.

Myth 3
The Trojan Squid “Psuedomorph” (or “Sue” for short) was incredibly successful.

It failed.

The deployment of Sue was difficult and when performed, no squid approached it and no squid attacked it. If you watch the sequence, you will notice that the ‘jigged’ Humboldt squid that attacked it was actually caught on a traditional jig with a camera attached to it.

Myth 4
The expedition was performed in Cabo

It was performed solely in Loreto, Baja California Sur

I wasn’t a part of the writing or scientific, technical accuracy.

Thank you for your time.
since it gets confusing to have two threads discussing the same topic, I'd like to suggest that people discuss this over here, where Scott also posted this:

Giant Squid footage on History Channel

I'm not locking this thread in case everyone else thinks there should be a separate discussion and wants to :tomato: at my request, though...
I want to lock it, I want to delete it, but refrain from doing so.

Scott, Tony, Mark, all, please, understand that we (in front of the camera) have no editorial control over what comes out in a documentary! We relinquish all (well, truth be told, we never had any) editorial control!! Scott, you'll have probably noticed imagery spliced together well and truly out of sequence also (I was a nightmare for these lads, as in one shot I had a mo, in another not, my hair would be long, short, then long again .... ). Being bald now they'll probably have kittens in the editing suite!

There are mistakes in everything, but my experience is that the academic community doesn't even watch this stuff. It is personal to us, and us only. Scott, there's no need to be defensive at all!! None, Nada! A number of us have been there before, and we live with it. Honestly, nobody cares!

The audience that wants to know more will find us here, and we can dedicate a thread to it, but you don't need to defend yourself here. There's an old (a very old!!) thread here somewhere, going back many, many years, where we talked about misreporting in the press/media. It goes with the territory.

I'm sure that there will be mistakes in the next one too, beyond your control. And there will be another one.

I haven't seen the doco yet (it hasn't aired here, NZ), but you'll probably find that I'll think it was a good yarn, whereas you will be terribly critical. You see, I don't know the chronology of events, or history, and have nothing invested in it. I just want to be entertained at the end of a long, rotten, horrible, mind-knumbingly crushing, treacherously miserable day! If sharing your adventure helps me forget my own misery then the job of the editor and producer has been done. (I bet you learnt a lot whilst making this doco - more than ever was relayed on the final cut. That's documentary making. Part entertainment [that we see on the box] and a lot of science [that we never see].)
I thought this was a bonafide new thread, so I say, let's let this one stand!

Great discussion and input. What Steve says makes a lot of sense and I fully trust his experience in this regard -- and I'm aware that the "editorial process" has a way of churning reality into mincemeat. For this reason, I *do* appreciate hearing from the people involved first-hand, such as SeaWolves, and their account of what the production got right, and what they got wrong. There's always a story behind the story, and one of the things that makes this forum great is that we have people like yourselves who experience these things first-hand, and can help frame reality for those of us land-locked people who are truly interested.

So thanks guys!
Tonmo - so true, the closest I get to diving is playing Endless Ocean on the Nintendo Wii so the discussions on these pages are invaluable for people who are genuinely interested in all things squiddy but maybe don't work in the field. Personally, I find programs like Monster Quest tremendously fascinating (and who doesn't want to believe in 50-100 foot squid?) but I know to always take the big claims into context (I remember the BBC stating that Liopleurodon could reach 25 meters in the Walking with Dinosaurs series). Hopefully it will get aired in the UK sometime in the future. However, the "real" bit is those intrepid explorers going out into the environment and then the scientists analyzing the data thereafter and the forums here on Tonmo are a great insight into that real story. Best of luck with your future ventures Scott and we look forward to the next chapter in your work - we await with anticipation.
Scott, I have to echo Steve that you have no reason to defend yourself. I can only echo that media puts forth the story that will generate the most interest, which is sometimes not the one you had in mind. It's not only squid that get measured in London buses.

What is most valuable to TONMO readers is your participation here and willingness to share what you saw and did in your role. I am thrilled to read about it.

Steve, Discovery is going to buy you a wig for continuity. :oshea:
I'm with Steve too. Those of us who have worked with the documentary industry understand that our sentences will get spliced to fit the story agenda. Many of us have watched a show to hear ourselves saying the opposite of what we intended. All the editors have to do is splice out a "not" or a "sometimes." But we all realize the role of documentaries in exciting people about the animals we study, so for the most part we let it go at that.
Ditto, I have been misquoted in the press too, at the end of the day I was annoyed but the public really dont know the difference, dont worry about it
A heart felt thank you

To you all, a heart felt thank you. Sharing your media experiences with me has definitely helped. It is a mystery as to why it happens when the facts are always better than fiction.

Maybe we should ban together and form the "True Documentary Channel" where only the facts are presented...

I will update more often about our work.

All the best
Obviously I am new to this forum. Really I didn't know that the facts are stretched. To me in the end, I got to see a big squid on camera. In all the specials in the past, they have stirred up my imagination even more on the subject. So to all that work on/involved in these specials, as a Giant Squid fan-boy, I thank you.
SeaWolves;105163 said:
Maybe we should ban together and form the "True Documentary Channel" where only the facts are presented...

And we'll get Neil Diamond to do the soundtrack! Count me in!

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