Catching the elusive giant squid on video, watch a snippet

For the first time ever, scientists have shot video of a live giant squid in its natural habitat -- and you can watch a snippet of it here.

The video of the giant squid was shot 2,000 feet below the North Pacific Ocean, about 260 miles south of Tokyo.


Scientists on the squid-finding mission had hoped to film at least a tentacle or two, but they got lucky: By the time the expedition was over, they had collected more than 23 minutes of the giant squid in the murky deep.

The first few seconds of the video above was shot with a camera system called the Medusa, invented by marine biologist Edith Widder. It consists of a camera and a bioluminescent lure that are attached to a buoy.

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The lure mimics the bioluminescent display of a jellyfish that has been caught by a predator. Widder hypothesized that the light is designed to attract the attention of a predator of the jellyfish’s predator.

The Medusa’s encounter with the giant squid would appear to support her theory.

“Edie brought in this amazing shot of the squid coming right up to the lens and showing off its mouth and beak and then retreating,” said Leslie Schwerin, a producer for the Discovery Channel, who was on the expedition.

Schwerin said that it seemed the squid was tasting the camera, which it may have confused with the fake jellyfish’s predator. Apparently it didn’t like what it tasted, and swam away.

The color snippet of the video above was shot by Tsunemi Kubodera, a squid expert at Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science, who has been photographing deep sea animals in this part of the world for more than a decade.

Kubodera’s approach took him down to the giant squid’s level in a submersible vehicle. He used a diamondback squid as bait to lure the giant squid to his camera. (Giant squid eat smaller squid.) Kubodera’s theory is that giant squid hunt for food by looking up, Schwerin explained.

“Although we can’t see anything at that depth, the giant squid have such huge eyes that they can see light filtering down from the surface and can create a silhouette of their prey,” she said.

On his first encounter with the squid, Kubodera was able to film for almost 23 minutes as the giant squid hung vertical in the water, munching the bait squid.

“It had wrapped some of its arms around the squid and some of the other arms were floating around,” said Schwerin, who has seen the full footage. “Then it decided it had enough and it just took off.”

Schwerin describes the video as “stunningly beautiful.”

“The color surprised everyone,” she said. “It was silver and gold, and it would change colors. The eye was very human looking, but the whole creature just looked like an alien.”

Kubodera estimates that the giant squid in the video is between 9 and 10 feet long. But it is missing its two longest tentacles. If those had been intact, the squid could have measured as much as 26 feet long.

I wish I could show you more than five seconds of video, but I’m afraid you are going to have 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 also air footage in Japan this month.


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