How Scientists Finally Caught Footage of “The Kraken” After Centuries of Searching

The world’s largest known squid is called Architeuthis dux, and well he or she is actually quite camera shy we are told by scientists.

The elusive and giant sized squid had worked its way into folklore for thousands of years, inspiring insane tales of fearsome Krakens with bodies as large as islands to man eating insanity. However in reality, the Duxis just a little bit smaller than that. They are still scary big though capable of growing to a whopping 46 feet (14 meters) long, about the size of a Semi Trailer.

Despite the massive size of these creatures, they are almost never seen in the water. Most observations of them comes from a dead or dying squids that wash up on shores or become ensnared in the deep-sea trawling nets.

But in 2012, all of that finally changed. A team of marine scientists filmed a young A. Dux in its natural habitat, about 2,000 feet below the sea south of Japan.

Now a new study published online in the journal Deep Sea Research Part 1: Oceanographic Research Papers digs into why these giants of the deep are so elusive, and gives an up close look on what researchers went through to try to capture the images.

According to the study authors (many of whom were present for the 2019 giant squid sighting), the creature’s evasiveness is due, in part, to its enormous eyes.

Giant squids can live thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface. Very little sunlight can penetrate this deep so to adapt, the giant squid evolved the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. Each of these cephalopods’ peepers are about as large as a basketball — roughly three times the diameter of any other animal, Live Science previously reported.

These huge eyes not only help giant squids make their way around the deep, dark ocean, but probably also make them extra sensitive to the bright lights that marine researchers mount to their submersibles and underwater cameras, according to the study authors. That sensitivity could explain why giant squids are so hard to find in their natural habitats; by the time a research vehicle reaches a squid’s swimming grounds, the squid has long since fled the craft’s lights and vibrations.

To correct this over-illumination, the researchers involved in the 2012 and 2019 A. dux sightings turned down the lights on their submersible (named the Medusa). After reaching the desired depths, the Medusa turned off its lights and stopped moving, allowing creatures of the deep to come to it rather than actively navigating across the bottom of the sea. The team also illuminated its camera with a dim red light instead of the bright white lights typically used on expeditions like these, capitalizing on a natural deep-sea color-blindness.

“Many deep-sea species, including squid, have monochromatic visual systems that are adapted to blue [light] and blue bioluminescence rather than long wavelength red-light,” the researchers wrote in the study. “Using red light may thus be a less obtrusive method for illuminating deep-sea species for videography.”

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