The Real Sea Monster: Giant Squid [The Kraken]

Sean Hayes

For centuries the massive Kraken, the largest monster  of the deep, has been a subject of myth and legend. Always portrayed as a many tentacled, ship-sinking terror, the Kraken is REAL. Though rarely seen and poorly understood, this monster is known to modern day scientists as the Giant Squid. Recent breakthroughs and video-recorded sightings have confirmed that one of the oldest sea tales is based upon a real monster.

The Kraken myth
The first Kraken stories originated in Scandinavian folklore and it is from their word Krake, meaning an unhealthy or twisted animal, that the term Kraken is derived. The most terrifying aspect of the Kraken was its immense size – it is frequently cited as being as large as an island. Some stories depict the Kraken as sinking ships inadvertently because of a huge whirlpool caused by its passage (Erik Pontoppidan, bishop of Bergen, in "Natural History of Norway"). The Kraken is also frequently depicted in early stories as being crab-like, but emerges in later woodcarvings as the monstrous tentacle-monster that is so well known today.

The Giant Squid, Facts
Though the Kraken is described as almost impossibly large, real life Giant Squid tend to be ‘only’ around 13 meters in length. This is hardly surprising, given the fantastic and dramatic nature of folklore, and the very great difficulty any sailors being set upon by such a mythic beast would have measuring it.

The legends are very much accurate in another regard, however. The giant squid is widely accepted as being a very deep-dwelling creature. This is also considered the principal reason for the rarity of human interaction with the monsters. Such encounters are so rare that the first recorded sighting of Giant Squid was only very recently, in 2005 by a group of Japanese scientists. Since the Giant Squid is so poorly understood (Again, because of their seclusion in the deep ocean) such sightings are of immense value, and the naturalistic observation of the animal gave the scientists a great deal of insight into the beast. Interestingly, the researchers observed that Giant Squid “appears to be a much more active predator than previously suspected, using its elongated feeding tentacles to strike and tangle prey."

The Future of the Sea Monster
Even though the Giant Squid, and any other unknown denizens of the deep, live in relative isolation from people, they are still very much threatened by us. Global warming, sea level rise, and the dwindling oceanic fish populations all may have very dire consequences for these poorly understood and secretive monsters. With changing currents and an evolving global ecosystem, the fate of the modern day sea monster is impossible to safely predict.

Further reading on the Giant Squid

  • news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/0927_050927_giant_squid.html
  • news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/07/070711-squid-picture.html
  • http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=156
  • http://squid.us/

Additional Information