From the dark depths of the Gulf of Mexico, the enormous tentacles of a squid emerge and creep closer, before slinking back into the abyss.
While the camera footage lasts less than half a minute, it marks a historic find as the first time a giant squid
has ever been filmed in the United States.
Scientists Stumble Upon A Giant Squid
For an expedition by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, scientists employed a special camera system known as Medusa, which was developed by Ocean Research & Conservation Association CEO Edith Widder. The probe, fitted with a red light undetectable to deep sea animals and a fake jellyfish called e-jelly that lured in elusive predators, has been used to discover new species and observe the ones that are rarely seen.
With just five deployments of this system, the team found something that has never been captured on film in the United States, despite the thousands of ROV and submersible dives in the Gulf of Mexico: a giant squid. They found it just 100 miles southeast of New Orleans, sitting squarely in the country's own backyard.
In the NOAA mission logs, Widder and Duke University professor of biology Sönke Johnsen recalled
how their colleague Nathan Robinson was looking through the videos from Medusa on Wednesday, June 19. A mysterious tubular creature initially appeared on the corner of the screen in one of the videos, then again in another. In the third video, the animal ventured closer to strike at Medusa's e-jelly bait.
The team gathered around Robinson, knowing immediately that the creature captured by the camera was a squid. Although it was difficult to determine the animal's exact size as it was swimming straight to the camera, the squid was estimated to be at least 10 to 12 feet (3 to 4 meters). The researchers on board who were most familiar with squid were 70 percent certain that it was a juvenile giant squid, and later — after a dramatic lightning strike to the boat — one of the leading squid experts in the world Michael Vecchione of NOAA's National Systematics Laboratory confirmed the find.
the experience as "one of the more amazing days at sea I've ever had."
'Monsters' Are Here
Giant squids are notoriously difficult to capture on film
. In fact, the only other time this was accomplished was when Widder and her team filmed one off the coast of Japan in 2012.
As Widder and Johnsen pointed out in their NOAA mission log, the giant squid — known as sea monsters of ancient lore — is found in the United States' own backyard. It was found just 100 miles southeast of New Orleans
and just a few miles from the Appomattox Deepwater oil rig.
"The creature of our wildest imagination is living not in a pristine deep, but among the heaviest tools of our energy infrastructure," Widder and Johnsen wrote, adding that their video showed that the giant squid wasn't a "monster" after all. While the deep sea animal is strange and unfamiliar to humans, the new footage showed behavior that's quite familiar: an animal striking at prey and backing away in surprise after realizing it's not food.
"Our perspective as humans has change," the pair continued. "What were once monsters to be feared are now curious and magnificent creatures that delight. We like to feel that science and exploration has brought about this change, making the world less scary and more wondrous with each new thing we learn."