All Hail the Kraken: Scientists Capture Live Footage of Giant Squid

Japanese scientists have proof that the kraken is alive and well after capturing live footage of a giant squid for the first time.

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NHK / NEP / Discovery Channel / REUTERS

Still image taken from video footage of a giant squid near Ogasawara Islands in July 2012.

Captain Jack Sparrow better watch out: Scientists have proof that the kraken is alive and well after capturing live footage of a giant squid for the first time.

A team of researchers led by zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera encountered the squid in July near the Ogasawara islands, several hundred miles off the coast of Japan. Using a bioluminescent lure that mimics the glow of jellyfish, Kubodera’s team found the squid and followed it to a depth of nearly 3,000 feet before losing track of the mammoth mollusk.

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“Many people have tried to capture an image of a giant squid alive in its natural habitat, whether researchers or film crews. But they all failed,” Kubodera told Reuters. “If you try and approach making a load of noise, using a bright white light, then the squid won’t come anywhere near you. That was our basic thinking.”

Though Kubodera estimated that the squid was only three meters long, he told Agence France-Presse that it was missing two of its longest tentacles, which means its original length may have been closer to eight meters – a little more than 26 feet.

A mighty serving of calamari floating around the ocean depths might not be your idea of beauty, but marine biologist Edie Widder, a member of Kubodera’s team, begs to differ. Widder told the Los Angeles Times, “It looked carved out of metal. And it would change from being silver to gold. It was just breathtaking.”

Video footage of the squid will be featured in a forthcoming documentary produced by the Discovery Channel and Japanese broadcaster NHK; it will air on Discovery Jan. 27 as Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real, according to a press release.

Legends of a massive, ship-destroying kraken date back to Icelandic and Norwegian writings from the 13th century, and interest in finding proof of the kraken’s existence has yet to cease. In 2007, a New Zealand fisherman caught one of the largest-known cephalopods ever when he found a 33-foot-long squid on his fishing line near Antarctica. Last fall, Mount Holyoke paleontologist Mark McMenamin claimed he discovered fossil evidence of a dinosaur-killing giant squid – so maybe the kraken scene from Pirates of the Caribbean was more real than we thought. (Probably not the one from Clash of the Titansthough.)

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