Imagine being a deep-sea fisherman off the coast of northern Spain. You pull up your net and find yourself staring into the very large eye of a giant squid. So what do you do?
You get the U.S. Air Force to fly it to the National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C. (You weren’t going to use it for bait, were you?) The Air Force nicknamed the mission “Operation Calamari.” They delivered two squid to D.C.--a 36-foot long, 330-lb female; and a 20-foot long, 100-lb male.
Thursday night, two C&EN reporters were treated to a preview of the preserved squid, which will be on display as part of the new Sant Ocean Hall, opening Sept. 27. Carmen Drahl (pictured) and I learned how 3M worked with museum experts to find a safe preservative that would display the cephalopods in all their tentacle-y glory.
Old-school squid preservers used formalin, not favored today due to its negative health effects, or ethyl alcohol, which is flammable and can degrade the specimen. Luckily, 3M learned of the museum’s quest for a better solution, and offered up Novec 7100 engineered fluid.
Novec has several qualities that make it fit the bill--it is nonflammable, low in toxicity, and gentle on the environment. The fluid is a hydrofluoroether with a low surface tension, and it is usually put to work cleaning very precise instruments, such as medical devices. It works well for museums, too, because it envelopes the specimens without penetrating the tissue.
The tour included a lovely dinner. Guess what they served?