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Giant squid finally caught on film by team of Japanese scientists!

Closeup of screen grab from footage captured by NHK and Discovery Channel in July 2012

Video of giant squid taken near Ogasawara Islands

A Japanese team of scientists from Japan’s National Science Museum have captured the first live images of a giant squid.  The images, taken from a video, of the silvery, 10-foot-long cephalopod nearly one kilometer below the surface, were taken last July near the Ogasawara Islands, about 620 miles south of Tokyo, Japan.  Scientists have been searching for the legendary creature for several years.  The giant squid is thought to have accounted for the mythical 40-foot “kraken” sea monsters of giant proportions said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland in the 13th century.

Historic descriptions of the “Kraken beast”

Writing in his Natural History, Pliny tells an incredible beast story about The Creature That Came from the Ocean:

At Carteia, in the preserves there, a polypus was in the habit of coming from the sea to the pickling-tubs that were left open, and devouring the fish laid in salt there… At last, by its repeated thefts and immoderate depredations, it drew down upon itself the wrath of the keepers of the works. Palisades were placed before them, but these the polypus managed to get over by the aid of a tree, and it was only caught at last by calling in the assistance of trained dogs, which surrounded it at night, as it was returning to its prey; upon which, the keepers, awakened by the noise, were struck with alarm at the novelty of the sight presented.

First of all, the size of the polypus was enormous beyond all conception; and then it was covered all over with dried brine and exhaled a most dreadful stench. Who could have expected to find a polypus there, or could have recognized it as such under these circumstances? They really thought that they were joining battle with some monster, for at one instant, it would drive off the dogs by its horrible fumes, and lash at them with the extremities of its feelers; while at another, it would strike them with its stronger arms, giving blows with so many clubs, as it were; and it was only with the greatest difficulty that it could be dispatched with the aid of a considerable number of three-pronged fish-spears.

The head of this animal was shewn to Lucullus; it was in size as large as a cask of fifteen amphora, and had a beard, to use the expressions of Trebius himself, which could hardly be encircled with both arms, full of knots, like those upon a club, and thirty feet in length; the suckers or calicules, as large as an urn, resembled a basin in shape, while the teeth again were of a corresponding largeness: its remains, which were carefully preserved as a curiosity, weighed seven hundred pounds.

In the 1750s, the Bishop of Bergen, Erik Pontoppidan, published his Natural History of Norway and really ignited the kraken craze with a widely distributed account of the giant beasts.

“The Norwegian fishermen sometimes find unexpected shallows when a short distance out at sea the depth suddenly diminishing from one hundred fathoms to twenty or thirty,” wrote Pontoppidan, according to a late 19th century English translation. “Then they know that the Kraken is rising and immediately retreat. His back first appears looking like a number of small islands, his arms rise above the surface like the masts of a vessel and are said to have power to grasp the largest man of war and pull it to the bottom.”

By the time Henry Lee’s Sea Monsters Unmasked appeared in 1883, these tales had been much better corroborated. Lee relates one famous anecdote from 1873 in Newfoundland, recorded by a local minister.

Two fishermen were out in a small punt on the 26th of October 1873, near the eastern end of Belle Isle, Conception Bay, about nine miles from St John’s. Observing some object floating on the water at a short distance, they rowed towards it, supposing it to be the debris of a wreck. On reaching it, one of them struck it with his gaff when immediately it showed signs of life and shot out its two tentacular arms as if to seize its antagonists. The other man, named Theophilus Picot, though naturally alarmed, severed both arms with an axe as they lay on the gunwale of the boat, whereupon the animal moved off and ejected a quantity of inky fluid which darkened the surrounding water for a considerable distance.

The men went home and, as fishermen will, magnified their lost fish. They estimated the body to have been 60 feet in length and 10 feet across the tail fin, and declared that when the fish attacked them, it reared a parrot-like beak which was as big as a six-gallon keg.

All this in the excitement of the moment [the minister] Mr. Harvey appears to have been willing to believe and related without the expression of a doubt. Fortunately, he was able to obtain from the fishermen a portion of one of the tentacular arms which they had chopped off with the axe and by so doing rendered good service to science.

An anonymous eyewitness description of a Krake that washed up on the shore.

In the year 1680, a Krake (perhaps a young and foolish one) came into the water that runs between the rocks and cliffs in the parish of Alstaboug, though the general custom of that creature is to always keep several leagues from land, and therefore of course must die there. It happened that its extended long arms or antennae, which this creature seems to use like the snail in turning about, caught hold of some trees standing near the water, which might easily have been torn up by the roots; but beside this, as it was found afterwards, he entangled himself in some or clefts in the rock, and therein stuck so fast, and hung so unfortunately, that he could not work himself out, but perished and putrefied on the spot. The carcass, which was a long while decaying, and filled a great part of that narrow channel, made it impassable by its intolerable stench.

Screen grab from footage captured by NHK and Discovery Channel in July 2012

An anonymous author of the Old Norwegian scientific work Konungs skuggsjá (circa 1250) described in detail the physical characteristics and feeding behavior of these beasts. The narrator proposed there must only be two in existence, stemming from the observation that the beasts have always been sighted in the same parts of the Greenland Sea, and that each seemed incapable of reproduction, as there was no increase in their numbers.  In the text, “hafgufa” refers to the “kraken” beast.

There is a fish that is still unmentioned, which it is scarcely advisable to speak about on account of its size, because it will seem incredible to most people. There are only a very few who can speak upon it clearly, because it is seldom near land nor appears where it may be seen by fishermen, and I suppose there are not many of this sort of fish in the sea. Most often in our tongue we call it hafgufa. Nor can I conclusively speak about its length in ells, because the times he has shown before men, he has appeared more like land than like a fish. Neither have I heard that one had been caught or found dead; and it seems to me as though there must be no more than two in the oceans, and I deem that each is unable to reproduce itself, for I believe that they are always the same ones…  It is said to be the nature of these fish that when one shall desire to eat, then it stretches up its neck with a great belching, and following this belching comes forth much food, so that all kinds of fish that are near to hand will come to present location, then will gather together, both small and large, believing they shall obtain there food and good eating; but this great fish lets its mouth stand open the while, and the gap is no less wide than that of a great sound or fjord, And nor may the fish avoid running together there in their great numbers. But as soon as its stomach and mouth is full, then it locks together its jaws and has the fish all caught and enclosed, that before greedily came there looking for food.

How scientists captured video of the elusive giant squid

The New York Daily news described how the elusive creature was caught on film:

“The key to their success,” said Kubodera, was a small submersible rigged with lights invisible to both human and cephalopod eyes. He, a cameraman and the submersible’s pilot drifted silently down to 630 meters and released a one-meter-long squid as bait. In all, they descended around 100 times. “If you try and approach making a load of noise, using a bright white light, then the squid won’t come anywhere near you. That was our basic thinking,” Kubodera said. “So we sat there in the pitch black, using a near-infrared light invisible even to the human eye, waiting for the giant squid to approach.” As the squid neared, they began to film, following it into depths to around 900 meters. “I’ve seen a lot of giant squid specimens in my time, but mainly those hauled out of the ocean. This was the first time for me to see with my own eyes a giant squid swimming,” he said. “It was stunning, I couldn’t have dreamt that it would be so beautiful. It was such a wonderful creature.”

Discovery Channel aired a special, Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real, covering the momentous occasion on January 27, 2013.

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

Screen grab from footage captured by NHK and Discovery Channel in July 2012 via Discovery Channel with usage type - Editorial use (Fair Use). July 2012
Closeup of screen grab from footage captured by NHK and Discovery Channel in July 2012 via Discovery Channel with usage type - Editorial use (Fair Use). July 2012

Featured Image Credit

Closeup of screen grab from footage captured by NHK and Discovery Channel in July 2012 via Discovery Channel with usage type - Editorial use (Fair Use). July 2012


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