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Giant Squid - Not Just a Legend

Updated on August 15, 2011
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

by zayzayem on flickr
by zayzayem on flickr

Is Science Fiction so Fiction

Throughout history man has proven himself to have a very vivid imagination.  If you have any doubt, just go to your local bookstore or library and peruse the science fiction aisle.  You will see things that will make you shake your head in wonder, but don’t totally dismiss them all.

When you ask a science fiction fan or a literature disciple what the greatest science fiction novels of all time are, you might be surprised at your results.  You’ll hear any of the Wells’ or Verne’s novels, like Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea or the Time Machine.  You’ll even hear of Gene Roddenberry’s works.  Why are these such great works?  Because despite their “outlandish” stories, they sparked imagination and even surprised us decades later by bringing many of their “tales” to life.

 Speaking through a device that you can carry in your pocket to someone miles and miles away?  Ridiculous.  Well, that was true pre-1980.  Now, we all have them.  Roddenberry wasn’t too far out there.  The tales they wrote were intriguing and at times kept us up at night, but in most stories there is always a small grain of truth that cannot be ignored.

For years, the natives of China talked of a black and white bear that would venture down from the hills.  Scientists and scholars scoffed at these tall tales.  It was just another over-imaginative farmer.  Low and behold, the panda bear was discovered and it matched the descriptions precisely.  Science fiction wasn’t so fictional after all.

Over and over again scholars are humbled to find that tall tales are a lot shorter than they realized.  One of the greatest has been debunked just in the last few years.  The Giant Squid is not the tale of sea-farers who have been too long without water. They actually do exist.

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by derekkeats on flickr
by williamhartz on flickr
by williamhartz on flickr

Are They Just Myths?

When you read Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the animals seem impossible.  Read the account of sailors during the 1800’s and you will hear of large sea creatures that would pull a man right off the ship.  Now, the stories might not be a hundred percent accurate, but there is usually a small grain of truth in all of them.

Aristotle in the fourth century B.C. mentioned a large squid that surpassed any that were seen before.  Scholars pretty much put that on the same shelf as Plato’s City of Atlantis.  It was a fantasy of too much drink.

Pliny the Elder mentioned the extremely large animal again in the first century A.D.  He could have read Aristotle’s work and decided that something dark in the waters was the mysterious squid creature.  Still nothing concrete.

Ah, but in 1861 an actual piece of a giant squid was presented by some fishermen.  The scientist could not say it was all fiction now.  There was something to this.  Though, it could be an anomaly of a regular squid that grew to a bizarre size.  We have evidence of humans who did the same thing.

Just 17 years later doubts were washed away.  A full length specimen was washed ashore in Newfoundland.  Just one of its tentacles was thirty-five feet long.  This was not a hoax.  They really did exist.  Here it was lying on the shore laughing at those that claimed it was only a myth.

Need to Learn More

What did they learn about the creatures? They have the largest eyes of any creature known to man. They are as large as one foot in diameter. It seems that the giant squid actually has a larger relative in the colossal squid. But the reported size of up to 60 feet or more and a confirmed size of 45 feet does not make one think of tiny.

Rumors abounded on this creature. Marine scientists began to scour the seas looking for it. But only pieces of them could be found on fishermen’s deep trawling hooks, or decomposing bodies would be washed up on shore which only proved that they existed but did not give the scientists any more insight into them.

In 2004 a live giant squid was caught in hauled onto a boat in good condition. It immediately died. Because it was the freshest one ever to land in man’s hands, it was preserved and is now on display at the Natural History Museum in London.

In 2005 another one was caught and preserved in a block of ice. This once can be found at the Melbourne Aquarium in Australia. The sightings and catchings of this mysterious creature were getting more common and the hope of all scientists were increasing.

Catching them and preserving them gives us prove that they exist. It also gives us the chance to look into their anatomy and see what makes them different from the “average” squid. But until you can view an animal in their natural habitat, you don’t learn much. The fact that they live so deep in the oceans makes it harder to study them. How do they eat? How do they reproduce? What are their habitats like? Do they have unique characteristics that distinguish them from the smaller squids other than their sizes? Those can only be answered by viewing them in their habitat and not on the deck of a fishing trawler.

Scientists have been trying for years to entice one of these creatures from the murky deep.  The oceans are vast so going down and looking for them would be nigh impossible.  So, they have been using the ways of fishermen to get them to come near cameras that were positioned near the bait.  Time after time went by with not a single tentacle appearing.  Until 2004.

In 2004 a Japanese science team were using deep lines with a camera fastened onto them.  They were in waters where repeated rumors were reporting the giant squid.  As they watched the cameras and trying to keep their eyes open, something flickered on the screen.  There it was again!  Before long a real live giant squid was trying to remove the bait.  The footage was amazing as I watched it on National Geographic and the excitement of the crew was contagious.  We had our first ever view of a giant squid in their natural habitat feeding.  This was an amazing event that could lead to further studies and the gathering of more information.

The squid itself is well known and very tasty if you like calamari, but the giant squid is one of legends.  The impossible tales of the old seamen and the stories of the first science fiction writers are coming to life.  They really do exist, and they continue to intrigue us and invite us to their worlds.


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    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago from Pasadena CA

      I just hope we don't accidentally decimate the population while we're trying to study them. Wonder if that tentacle will grow back? Very interesting hub, RGraf.

      dusanotes - Add the Amazon capsule to your hub. Click the edit button, then the one that says "Choose Specific Products." Insert your product's ISBN # into the space that shows up, then click "Add description" on the right. That's where you add your own text. Click "Preview Amazon Results" to see how it turned out.

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      Ben 5 years ago

      Giant squid are not good eating. They flesh has an ammonia smell and is extremely tough. There are also several specie of giant squid, the largest being the colossal squid which has "teeth" on the sucker rings on the arms. It's thought these "teeth" are responsible for the most severe damage seen on sperm whales.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Awesome. Fascinating.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image

      Hmrjmr1 8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Wonderful Hub thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks!

    • dusanotes profile image

      dusanotes 8 years ago from Windermere, FL

      RGraf: This is a great Hub. I got a lot of enjoyment reading about the giant squib and the panda bears that were once the things of science fiction, and now they're real. Great writing. I hope more people see your wonderful hubs. Don White

      P.S. could you help me? I have the language to put some of their ads into my hubs, but don't know how you do it. I have the code. What's the next step. thanks, Don White