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The Kraken wakes: first images of giant squid filmed in deep ocean
January 8, 2013 / 5:20 AM / in 5 years

The Kraken wakes: first images of giant squid filmed in deep ocean

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese-led team of scientists has captured on film the world’s first live images of a giant squid, journeying to the depths of the ocean in search of the mysterious creature thought to have inspired the myth of the “kraken”, a tentacled monster.

The images of the silvery, three-meter (10 feet) long cephalopod, looming out of the darkness nearly 1 km below the surface, were taken last July near the Ogasawara islands, 1,000 km (620 miles) south of Tokyo.

Though the beast was small by giant squid standards - the largest ever caught stretched 18 meters long, tentacles and all - filming it secretly in its natural habitat was a key step towards understanding the animal, researchers said.

“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,” said Tsunemi Kubodera, a zoologist at Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science, who led the team.

“These are the first ever images of a real live giant squid,” Kubodera said of the footage, shot by Japanese national broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel.

The key to their success, said Kubodera, was a small submersible rigged with lights invisible to both human and cephalopod eyes.

He, a cameraman and the submersible’s pilot drifted silently down to 630 meters and released a one-meter-long squid as bait. In all, they descended around 100 times.

A giant squid is seen in this still image taken from video captured from a submersible by a Japanese-led team of scientists near Ogasawara islands taken in July 2012, in this handout picture released by NHK/NEP/Discovery Channel in Tokyo January 7, 2013. The scientists have captured on film the world's first live images of a giant squid, journeying to the depths of the ocean in search of the mysterious creature thought to have inspired the myth of the "kraken", a tentacled monster. Picture released on January 7. REUTERS/NHK/NEP/Discovery Channel/Handout

“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,” Kubodera said.

“So we sat there in the pitch black, using a near-infrared light invisible even to the human eye, waiting for the giant squid to approach.”

A giant squid is seen in this still image taken from video captured from a submersible by a Japanese-led team of scientists near Ogasawara islands taken in July 2012, in this handout picture released by NHK/NEP/Discovery Channel in Tokyo January 7, 2013. REUTERS/NHK/NEP/Discovery Channel/Handout

As the squid neared they began to film, following it into the depths to around 900 meters.

“I’ve seen a lot of giant squid specimens in my time, but mainly those hauled out of the ocean. This was the first time for me to see with my own eyes a giant squid swimming,” he said. “It was stunning, I couldn’t have dreamt that it would be so beautiful. It was such a wonderful creature.”

Until recently, little was known about the creature believed to be the real face of the mythical kraken, a sea-monster blamed by sailors for sinking ships off Norway in the 18th century.

But for Kubodera, the animal held no such terror.

“A giant squid essentially lives a solitary existence, swimming about all alone in the deep sea. It doesn’t live in a group,” he said. “So when I saw it, well, it looked to me like it was rather lonely.”

Reporting by Ruairidh Villar; Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Daniel Magnowski

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