Giant Squids, Minotaurs, and Bigfoot are all creatures that were a myth at one time or another. The difference between them, however, is that we know one exists, we know that one doesn’t, and we aren’t so sure about the third. Humans have given hundreds of amazing creatures places in our myths and legends since the beginning of oral history – many of which are believed to be real. In this series, we look at some of the origins and theories surrounding some of the most fantastic of these creatures.
A team of Japanese scientists has recently captured a live giant squid on film in its natural habitat for the first time in history. Per a CNN report, “the mission that finally tracked down the creature involved 55 dives in two special submersible vehicles that spent a total of more than 285 hours far beneath the waves. Some of the dives went deeper than 3,000 feet.” The 10-foot squid was finally found off the coast of Japan. While this is a relatively small giant squid (they can reach 44 feet in length), this is a momentous scientific discovery – the Giant Squid is one of the most storied and evasive sea creatures in history.
Many believe the giant squid and its cousin, the colossal squid, are what sailors going back to the times of Homer and Aristotle referred to as he Kraken. These were 40-50 foot sea creatures with enormous tentacles that would attack ships by entangling them in its vice grip and pulling them down to the crushing depths of the deep sea. The giant squid is also legendary for battles with sperm whales that have reportedly been witnessed by sailors, something immortalized by the classic Moby Dick. Jules Verne’s 1870 novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea also features a giant squid as one of the prominent antagonists of the story after it attacks Captain Nemo’s Nautilus and devours a crew member.
There is recorded history going back to the 1850’s of giant squids and tentacles washing up along the shores of France, Newfoundland, and New Zealand. There have also been parts of giant squids found in the bellies of sperm whales – not to mention giant scars that serve as evidence of the size and strength of these creatures. These findings continued sporadically over the last century, but a living squid was never witnessed. This added to the legend by confirming that they exist, while at the same time perpetuating the thought that they are deadly sea monsters who leave no survivors. For many centuries, it remained one of the last examples of a megafauna which was known to exist but had never been observed alive.
In 1993, this widely published picture seemed to show a diver swimming alongside a giant squid; it was thought to be the first ever photograph of a living specimen. However, it was later concluded that the picture showed a dying clubhook squid, a large but nevertheless different species of squid than the elusive giant. It was even theorized that the wide angle lens helped to exaggerate the size of the squid.
Then, in 2005, a fishing trawler caught a 28 foot Giant Squid (dubbed “Archie“) in its net and sent it to the London Museum of Natural History for study and preservation. Another one was caught off the coast of New Zealand and is on display in Melbourne, Australia. Amazingly, this was the first time that one of these scary cephalopods had been captured in the deep.
While this is a significant discovery and achievement, it is of questionable value going forward. Due to the depths that squid live at, they are nearly impossible to track by attaching a tagging device as is done with sharks and whales. There is also no guarantee that any submarine will be able to keep up with the squid’s movements for an extended observational period. But consider this: considering the great advances we have made in marine biology in the past 100 years, it is incredible that it has taken us this long to finally document one of these mythical creatures. If nothing else, this gives weight to the many theories surrounding Bigfoot, chupacabras, and other mythical creatures that have yet to be found. Even though we knew that giant squids existed, the world is a big place, and there are still many places that these other elusive creatures could be hiding.