After a decade-long hunt almost as obsessive as Captain Ahab’s search for Moby Dick, a team of researchers and journalists from Japan’s National Science Museum, the Discovery Channel, and Japanese broadcaster NHK have captured video of the mysterious giant squid in its natural habitat, about 9 miles from ChiChi Island and 600 miles south of Tokyo.
This three meter long creature is actually on the small side; giant squids can grow to eight meters (twenty-six feet)!
These real-life underwater giants are believed to be the inspiration for the Kraken, a mythical Nordic sea monster known for attacking ships in the waters off of Scandinavia. Having inspired numerous artists and writers over the centuries, it is no surprise that this fantastical animal has captured the imaginations of scientists as well.
These squid have earned their elusive reputation for a reason. The team used a submersible to pursue the squid to depths of 900 meters below the ocean’s surface, into an environment so hostile and extreme that it has hidden the squid’s secrets from humans until now. Living in the nearly impenetrable darkness has led to the evolution of huge eyes in squid—up to 10.6 inches!—so the team developed a special high definition video camera for the project, capable of recording images at light levels imperceptible even to the sensitive sea monster.
In recent years, the population of giant squid has grown, due perhaps in part to warming water in the Pacific Ocean. Warmer temperatures increase the animals’ metabolic rate, allowing them to grow faster. In a single year, a young squid can grow from just 2 millimeters long to a meter, the equivalent of a new born child growing to the size of a whale in its first twelve months of life.
The full video of the giant squid will be featured on the season finale of Discovery Channel’s Curiosity. For now, enjoy this brief teaser that leaves almost as much to the imagination as the ancient legends.