It was an odd start to the morning Saturday in La Jolla, Calif.
First, residents were jostled out of bed at 7.34 a.m. by a 4.0 magnitude earthquake that was centered 19 miles out in the ocean.
“I was having coffee up on the balcony and I felt it shaking,” Kate Lutkemeier said.
She wasn’t the only one.
“I heard my doors and windows rattling, thinking that somebody was trying to get in my front door actually,” La Jolla resident Mary Skeen said.
The quake was felt all over the county, which isn’t uncommon in San Diego — but what happened just minutes later was a little fishy.
“We just got here about 15 minutes ago and Lilly, what did you see on the beach?” John Feher asked his little daughter.
“Squid, squid, squid, squid, squid.” she replied.
Dozens of dazed Humboldt squid, which were roughly three- to four-feet long and weighed close to 40 pounds, were found flapping around on La Jolla Shores beach.
“It’s like their equilibrium is all messed up and they don’t know what they’re doing and they can’t back out there,” said beachgoer Bill Baumann. “It was like they got — I don’t know — all shook up.”
It didn’t take long for the seagulls to swoop in and start feeding on the squid, so beachgoers ran to the rescue and tried frantically to save them by throwing them back in the water. That proved to be a difficult task for several reasons: they were extremely heavy, very slippery, and when the good Samaritans did manage to get them back them in water, the squid didn’t know which way to go and kept washing back up on shore.
“Some people were saying it was the earthquake this morning that caused them to get disoriented, but who knows? Feher said.
He wasn’t the only person to mention that theory.
“A state guy was out and said the earthquake caused (it),” Baumann said.
Lifeguard Sgt. David Rains said that is one of several possibilities. Another potential cause is there were a lot of fishing boats in the area, creating a significant fish activity and squid follow the food supply. He also said there have been a lot of water inversions, with the water turning from warm to cold, which could be the cause. But he doesn’t know for sure.
“Why are they here? Why are the squid here? I can’t honestly tell you,” Sgt. Rains said. “I don’t know if it’s tied or not to the earthquake.”
According to the lifeguard, swimmers should be wary of the creatures and keep their distance.
“The Humboldt squid can be very big and very powerful and they may be dangerous,” Sgt. Rains said. “It’s just something I wouldn’t mess with until you’re sure that it’s dead. They’ve got a lot of suckers and claws and a parrot-like beak and they can inflict some damage.”
A spokesman for Scripps Institution of Oceanography said at this point they do not see a connection between the squid and the earthquake, but plan to look into it. Dozens of squid washing up at the same time is unusual but it has happened before, according to Sgt. Rains. But Mary Skeen said it is a first for her.
“I have never seen squid in the 42 years that I’ve lived here on the shores in La Jolla,” she said.
For now there are more questions than answers; did the earthquake cause the squid to wash up or was it simply a coincidence? Just ask the little girl who helped daddy push some alien looking creatures back out to sea.
“Is it a mystery?” Feher asked his little daughter Lilly.
“Yeah,” she replied.