For centuries the giant squid has been the stuff of legend, but now, for the first time ever, scientists have collected footage of a giant squid, (Architeuthis), in its natural habitat, thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface.
“All of us were so amazed at what it looked like,” Edie Widder, a marine biologist who was part of the successful video making mission, told the Los Angeles Times. "It looked carved out of metal. And it would change from being silver to gold. It was just breathtaking.”
Scientists encountered the squid in the North Pacific Ocean, near the Ogasawara archipelago of Japan. They first saw the squid at a depth of 2,066 feet and followed it down to a depth of 2,952 feet before it swam down into the inky abyss, Agence France-Presse reports.
“It was shining and so beautiful,” Tsunemi Kubodera, a squid expert and researcher for Japan’s National Science Museum told AFP. “I was so thrilled when I saw it firsthand, but I was confident we would because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data.”
Kubodera, who has spent 10 years filming underwater in this part of the world, was one of the lucky scientists to be in the small submarine when the footage was collected in July 2012.
The squid caught on video is 9 feet long, but it is also missing its two longest tentacles. If those tentacles were still intact, the squid could have measured as much as 26 feet in length, Kubodera told the AFP.
In the video, and in the pictures above, you will see the giant squid clutching a smaller squid that the researchers used as bait to bring the Architeuthis in front of the cameras.
But, for the first time, the team on this expedition also used a lure that mimics the bioluminescent display of a jellyfish to attract the giant squid’s attention.
“This squid has an eye that is bigger than your head,” said Widder, who developed the bioluminescent lure. “It is a visual predator. And that is what we were taking advantage of: They’ve been so elusive before because every time we’ve gone to explore they see us with our bright white lights and stay away.”
I wish I could embed video of the giant squid here, but I can’t. It’s not officially available yet in official condition.
You and I will have to wait until Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. to see it as part of the Discovery Channel’s show “Monster Squid: The Giant is Real.” The Japanese public broadcasting organization NHK, which partnered with Discovery and the National Museum of Japan on this project, will air footage in Japan sometime in January.
In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with those amazing photos above. For more spectacular images from the deep, check out Widder’s TED talk “Glowing Life in an Underwater World.”