16 September 2002
Scientists are hunting the giant squid in southern seas but, as befits the fearsome sea monster – or kraken – celebrated in medieval Nordic legends, the beast is also flailing its tentacles in European waters.
A pair of fishing boats trawling in Spanish waters on Saturday found their nets weighed down by the body of a 50kg whopper measuring 6 metres long, some 200 miles off Gijon. The fishermen snared their spectacular catch – the first example in the world of a mature male giant squid – 350 metres down.
Spanish scientists had suspected thatArchiteuthis dux roamed the deep waters off the northern Spanish coast, and equipped the scientific ship Investigator to explore the area last month. A five-metre tentacle was caught in these waters in 1999 that scientists reckoned came from a squid 10 metres long, though they stress the monster can grow to double that size.
The scientists' aim, in the kraken project, eagerly followed throughout Europe, is to film the world's first images of the creature in its natural habitat on the deep ocean floor below 550 metres. Their equipment includes a robot camera able to descend 1,600 metres. By chance, the Investigator had returned to shore to mend a damaged fibre optic used for deep-sea filming shortly before the find on Friday. But, responding to the fishermen's call, the scientists sped to the spot and hoisted the vast cephalopod on deck.
"This is the only mature male captured in the world and could provide some of the most important information on the Architeuthis to date," said Jose Manuel Novoa, a spokesman for the Investigator's team of biologists and zoologists. "If we get the live images, we'll go down in history."
Unless, that is, scientists on a similar mission near New Zealand find the beast first.