A giant squid made a rare and spectacular appearance inside Toyama Bay, central Japan, on Christmas Eve. The giant squid (Architeuthis) is a deep sea dweller rarely sighted, even in open seas. But to the astonishment of local fishermen, this individual surfaced inside the marina on the coast of the Sea of Japan on December 24 and swam among and under moored boats for several hours before it was guided back to open waters.
Tatsuya Wakasugi, with the Mizuhashi Fisherina in Toyama prefecture, 250 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, confirmed that a fisherman first sighted the giant squid, about 3.7 meters long, swimming under boats docked at the Marina.
Wakasugi told the Wall Street Journal, “It was the first time that we saw a live giant squid here, where water depth is only about 2.5 to 3 meters.”
Giant squids are usually found at sea depths of 650 meters to 900 meters, according to experts. Most giant squid sightings involve weak or dead individuals washed ashore or caught in fishing nets.
“Whereas the ones caught in fishing nets are mostly dead and their colors have already turned white, the body of the giant squid swimming inside the marina was red.”
Akinobu Kimura, a professional diver who owns the Diving Shop Kaiyu, swam alongside the rare sea creature. He swam very close to it and captured the encounter on video using a submersible camera.
He told CNN, “My curiosity was way bigger than fear, so I jumped into the water and go close to it.”
“This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me,” he added. “I guided the squid toward to the ocean, several hundred meters from the area it was found in, and it disappeared into the deep sea.”
According to Yuki Ikushi, curator at the Uozu Aquariam in Toyama, there have been multiple reports of sighting of Architeuthis squids trapped in fishing nets this season (November-March), but the Christmas Eve sighting was the first.
“We might see more in this season, but it’s very rare for them to be found swimming around (the fishing boats’) moorings,” he told CNN.
The giant squid was estimated at about 3.7 meters (12.1 feet) in length. This makes it a small specimen, likely juvenile. Adult squids grow up to 13 meters (43 feet) in length and could weigh up to a ton.
Giant squids spend most of their lives in deep waters. It was not known why this individual wandered so far away from its usual habitat into the bay on a day that weather and sea conditions were mild.
Although Kimura said the squid was not injured and appeared healthy and vigorous, he also noted that it appeared to have some scratches on its head, implying that it may have had an encounter that forced it into the bay. Being a young and inexperienced juvenile, it also may have lost its way.
Giant squids are very rarely sighted in shallow waters, and for centuries, the few reported sightings were by sailors voyaging on deep waters. It is believed that sightings of giant squids by sailors spawned the myth of the Greek sea monster Scylla and the Norse myth of the sea monster Kraken.
But in recent years, dead specimens washed ashore have helped to give marine biologists better knowledge of what giant squids look like. In 2004, the first-ever observation of a giant squid in its natural habitat occurred in the north Pacific. In 2012, Discovery Channel and the Japanese NHK aired the first-ever video of an adult giant squid in its natural habitat (See video below).
Earlier this year, the Museum of Nature and Human Activities reported that researchers captured giant squid babies for the first time off the coast of Japan, according to CNN.
Eddie Widder, with the Ocean Research and Conservation Association and a member of the team of experts who captured the first film of a squid in its environment, remarked in 2013 during a TED Talk, “How could something that big live in our ocean and remain unfilmed until now? We’ve only explored about five percent of our ocean. There are great discoveries to be made down there, fantastic creatures representing millions of years of evolution.”
[Image via NASA/Wikimedia]