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. The 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.
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” is referring 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 to most people incredible. 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.
“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 the 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 will air a special, Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real, covering the momentous occasion on January 27, 2013.