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How the giant squid was discovered

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Children are more familiar with giant squids in the form of a "giant octopus" that appears in stories, non-fiction books, and cartoons. People believed for hundreds of years that the animal only existed in fairytales.


Seafarers used to tell stories about giant octopuses living deep in the ocean, perhaps based on exotic sightings of dead giant squids that had washed ashore. Since sailors enjoy spooky stories, the "giant octopus" kept getting bigger and more dangerous in everyone's mind. Such exaggerated stories are called "seaman's yarn". In the end, some sailors were convinced that octopuses would come from the deep and pull entire ships into the deep water with their long arms.
Undoubtedly, the men who were fishing off the Canadian Atlantic coast in a rowboat in 1873 remembered these stories when a live giant squid drifted up to their boat. Giant squids almost never come to the surface of the sea because the light is too bright for them, but maybe the animal was sick or had escaped a whale, or it was simply curious. However that may be, it started to touch the fishing boat with its long arms. The fishermen were scared, thinking that the giant octopus had come to pull them underwater. A 12-year-old ship boy named Tom Piccot was more courageous than the others. He took an axe of the kind available in most boats and hacked off one of the giant squid's tentacles. A tentacle is the name for the gripping arm of several meters, which the animals use to grab their prey or explore the shape of objects. The squid fled, but the 6-meter tentacle remained on board, providing proof that the animals really existed.
Almost ten years earlier, a French warship almost succeeded in pulling a giant squid on board near the Canary Islands. The sailors harpooned the animal that was floating at the surface. However, the soft body fell apart during the attempt to pull the creature on board and disappeared almost completely into the sea. Only a few pieces made it on the deck of the ship.
During the following years, further giant squid parts were discovered. An intact squid washed up in Newfoundland in 1874 and was photographed by the pastor and researcher Moses Harvey, who suspended in the dead animal over his bathtub. From that time, scientists had proof that the mythical creature actually existed and the search for the giant squid, which continues to this day, started in earnest. It took until 2012 until Japanese scientists were able to film a live giant squid at a depth of several hundred meters. The animal was injured and was missing its two long tentacles.
The submersible Lula1000 will now attempt to film an intact, adult specimen deep in the ocean. The researchers hope to observe how the gigantic animal uses its long tentacles for holding its prey and feeding.