The huge invertebrates have never before been seen in their natural habitat.
Giant squids live in water so deep that it took until the 19th century for the scientific community to even believe the massive animal existed. Legends of a kraken or sea monster attacking ships had percolated through our collective culture since time immemorial, and many zoologists thought the giant squid was just a story sailors told like mermaids and sirens. In the 19th century, corpses of dead squids that had washed up on shore were studied by the Danish scientist Japetus Steenstrup and he convinced the world of the existence of the species through a series of papers. It took until 2004 for a live giant squid to be captured and photographed in the Falklands Islands, although the 28.3 ft creature died the day. A few more sick or dying giant squids have been found in nets since then, but it wasn't until last year that video of a squid in its natural habitat deep under the sea was recorded by a joint venture between the Discovery Channel and the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
Using a specially-designed submersible and a super sensitive HD camera, the team led by Tsunemi Kubodera followed giant squids on more than 100 missions underwater, racking up more than 400 hours of time below the sea. Kubodera's dedication was finally rewarded when they recorded footage of a relatively small specimen - estimated length about 3 meters or 10 feet long.
"It was shining and so beautiful," Kubodera said. "I was so thrilled when I saw it first hand.
"Researchers around the world have tried to film giant squid in their natural habitats, but all attempts were in vain before," he continued. "With this footage we hope to discover more about the life of the species."
The footage was captured 630 meters (2066.93 feet) below sea level but Kubodera said they had tracked this particular squid near Chichi island in the north Pacific Ocean to a depth of 900 meters or 3000 feet. The squid also was missing its two longest tentacles - researchers had no theories as to why exactly, perhaps a fight with a sperm whale? - and Kubodera estimates if the tentacles were intact the squid would have been at least 8 meters long.
The video of the giant squid will be shown on the Discovery Channel on Sunday, Jan. 27 in an episode of Curiosity. I, for one, will be watching - or at least scanning the tubes for a clip - because these crazy monsters are amazing. Plus, I'll be able to scream "Release the Kraken!" before pressing play, and annoy all those who sit near me in the Escapist bunker.