Here there be monsters.
When people think of sea monsters, they’re usually envisioning the bottom of a deep trench in the ocean. But on Wednesday, June 19, scientists taking part in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) mission “Journey Into Midnight: Light and Life Below the Twilight Zone” captured footage of a giant squid just 100 miles south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico.
It was the fifth time that the scientists had lowered thousands of feet of blue plastic line by hand in order to film the deepest reaches of the Gulf. While reviewing the footage, Dr. Nathan Robinson saw the usual small animals and shrimp that scientists had captured during their four other deployments.
Then came the footage captured by Dr. Edith Widdler, CEO and Senior Scientist from the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA). In the video, a juvenile giant squid between 10 and 12 feet (3 to 3.7 meters) long can be seen hunting the bioluminescent e-jelly attached to provide light for the camera.
Video courtesy of Drs. Edie Widder and Nathan Robinson
“We did not find a monster,” the scientists write in their report. “The giant squid is large and certainly unusual from our human perspective, but if the video shows anything of the animal’s character, it shows an animal surprised by its mistake, backing off after striking at something that at first must have seemed appealing but was obviously not food.”
According to the scientists, the fact they found the giant squid after only five days in spite of thousands of other dives failing to do so told them an important fact about the giant squid: they don’t like bright light. The current mission is using a camera called the Medusa which uses low-level bioluminescence to provide light, allowing for stealth monitoring and filming.
They were also surprised at how close the giant squid was to human activity. The mission was filming 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,” they write.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor whose work has been featured in publications such as The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_