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First peek at Verne’s monster

London, Sept. 28: A giant squid, the elusive behemoth of the deep that inspired Jules Verne, has been observed alive for the first time.

The creature, as long as a London bus from tentacle tip to tail, has been filmed by Japanese researchers using a baited underwater camera, shedding new light on the lifestyle of one of nature’s most enigmatic living wonders.

The first observed specimen measured about 26 ft in total, with 16-ft tentacles. Even so, it was something of a titch by the standards of the species as a whole, with the largest yet washed ashore, in New Zealand more than twice as big.

The giant squid, Architeuthis dux, has been known since the 16th century from dead specimens washed up on beaches or snared by fishermen’s nets, and from the occasional fleeting sighting when it has neared the surface. But it had never before been seen in its natural deep-water environment.

Its size, fearsome tentacles and beak have captured the imaginations of sailors and writers, for whom it has become an emblem of the terrors of the deep. In Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Captain Nemo’s submarine Nautilus was attacked by a “squid of colossal dimensions” that almost destroyed the vessel.

Giant squids have been found in the stomachs of sperm whales, which feed on the creatures.

Almost nothing is known about where and how Architeuthis feeds, or about how it behaves in its natural habitat.

That has now changed, after Tsunemi Kudobera of the National Science Museum and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association used sperm whale migration patterns to guide them to the best place to watch for giant squid.

The Japanese scientists found the squid in the deep waters off the coast of the Ogasawara Islands in the North Pacific.

They used a remote long-line camera and depth logging system to capture the giant squid in the ocean depths.

Over the next four hours, the squid was photographed every 30 seconds as it struggled to free itself, eventually escaping only when part of its trapped tentacle was severed.

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