I’ve just watched a documentary on TV about sperm whales and their prey, the giant squid. The scientist who was narrating the programme explained that the whales dive down as deep as four kilometres to hunt for the squid, which live in perpetual darkness. The encounter between these two giants of the deep has never been witnessed by man. However, I guessed that the scientist had never been in the navy.
In 1961, I was serving onboard HMS Victorious in the far east. One day, just as we’d flown our aircraft off for a one-hour sortie, the skipper made an announcement over the Tannoy system. ‘Attention, this is the captain. Ahead on our port bow a whale and an octopus are fighting. We will stop engines and coast over. Everyone who can be spared can come up on the flight deck to observe.’
Of course the captain’s octopus was in fact a giant squid. The two huge beasts were rolling about on the surface of the blue ocean, which they’d turned white with foam and red with blood in a monumental death struggle. We stayed to watch until our aircraft returned and we had to turn into wind and speed up. So we never did see the end of the fight, although my money was on the whale.