This giant squid was an unexpected find for these surfers.
One of the most mysterious creatures of modern natural history is the giant squid (Architeuthis dux). This deep sea creature is so elusive that zoologists only knew of its existence from dead specimens that washed up on beaches or the occasional live one that ended up as a bycatch from a fishing boat.
Because of the deepwater habitats preferred by this species, sightings of one are extremely rare and photos ever more so. It was not until 2002 that the giant squid was photographed for the first time off the coast of Japan by a research vessel using a sophisticated underwater camera system.
Knowing that, you can imagine the surprise of these surfers when they encountered a real, live sea monster swimming around in shallow waters. When they get closer to inspect the big cephalopod up close, it latches some of those big tentacles onto one of the surfer's boards.
Freaky! Encounters with live giant squid in their natural habitat like this are extremely rare. This guy can honestly say he tangled with the real-life version of the kraken. This footage was taken in 2017 off the coast of South Africa. The animal was confirmed as a giant squid by Smithsonian Natural History Museum's Michael Vecchione. It was obvious this squid was already dying because these are deep ocean creatures that only wind up in the shallows when they are sick or injured. It would appear this was probably still a juvenile giant squid because the adults have been known to grow to lengths of 30 feet or more. It also looks like some predators had already taken some bites of this animal's tentacles.
As large as these creatures grow, they are not immune to predation. It has long been known that sperm whales are the primary predators that feed on this species. Note the huge eye on this creature. Giant squid have one of the largest eyes in nature. It is thought that only the colossal squid may have larger eyes.
As rare as squid footage is, scientists are starting to figure out ways to document this species in its natural habitat. In 2019, this species was documented in U.S. waters for the first time when biologists on an expedition with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), caught one on camera southeast of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico. The New York Times reports the squid was in over 2,000 feet of water.
Biologists Nathan Robinson and Edie Widder were the ones responsible for that video using a bioluminescence lure known as the Medusa, to look like a jellyfish as bait. It seems that as technology advances, we are starting to unravel some of the mysteries of the world's oceans, one at a time.