The team of Japanese scientists spotted the squid over half a mile below the ocean surface. They were near the Ogasawara Islands, about 620 miles south of Tokyo. He was about 10 feet long, and they captured him on film. The images above is a still from the video—the world’s first live images of a giant squid.
As the Wall Street Journal details, centuries ago the mysterious giant squid likely inspired the myth of the tentacled monster the “kraken,” popularized in The Clash of the Titans. Because it lives at such great depths and not much is known about the animal’s behavior and life history, the squid, save for dead specimens, continued to evade cameras. Marine Biologist and author Richard Ellis once described the non-existant giant squid photo as “the most elusive image in natural history.”
The New York Daily News describes how the team pulled off the feat:
The key to their success, said Kubodera, was a small submersible rigged with lights invisible to both human and cephalopod eyes.
He, a cameraman and the submersible’s pilot drifted silently down to 630 meters and released a one-meter-long squid as bait. In all, they descended around 100 times.
“If you try and approach making a load of noise, using a bright white light, then the squid won’t come anywhere near you. That was our basic thinking,” Kubodera said.
“So we sat there in the pitch black, using a near-infrared light invisible even to the human eye, waiting for the giant squid to approach.”
As the squid neared they began to film, following it into the depths to around 900 meters.
As the researchers commented to Daily News, the squid—a solitary animal—appeared to be “rather lonely.” He was also missing two of the tentacles that should have been his longest, scientists said: with them, he might have been 26 feet long.
More from Smithsonian.com: