The mysterious giant squid
First posted on homepage: 11 June 2014 (GMT+10)
Re-posted on homepage: 13 April 2022 (GMT+10)
Tales abound around the world of the existence of awesome creatures and events. For instance, the hundreds of stories of a global Flood, with amazing parallels to the original in Genesis, give strong support to the truth of the Bible’s real history of the universe. It is also easy to see the widespread stories of dragons and huge sea serpents as having a basis in fact, in the light of reconstructions of certain dinosaurs and marine monsters such as the Kronosaurus, now found only as fossils.
But such connections make little sense to someone viewing the evidence through the ‘interpretive lenses’ of our present culture. They would insist that such creatures died out millions of years before the first person appeared, a position favoured even by many who would claim to be opposed to evolution.
It has therefore always been convenient for such long-agers to dismiss all such accounts as purely fanciful. The tales about the mysterious giant squid have a lesson to offer, namely that a persistently recurring story, despite being opposed to ‘common experience’, turns out to have a factual basis.
For centuries, stories have abounded about squids of monstrous proportions.
Herman Melville, in his famous 1851 novel, Moby Dick, describes a duel to the death between a sperm whale and a giant squid. Lord Alfred Tennyson tells of a marine monster with ‘giant arms’ in his 19th century poem The Kraken,and the naturalist in Jules Verne’s classic tale 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1873), expresses disgust at the sight of an ‘immense cuttlefish’ swimming near the ship.
It’s now known that not only did such tentacled giants exist in the days when the above authors lived, they continue to exist today. Despite the fact that no modern scientist has seen a live giant squid, there is absolutely no doubt that they still live—many hundreds, maybe even thousands, of metres below the surface of the sea.
We know this because dead giant squids have washed up on beaches, been caught by fishermen or found in the stomachs of sperm whales.1 It is reasonable to assume that the giant squid, purported to be up to 18 metres (60 feet) in length and weighing up to 900 kg (nearly a tonne), lives near the deep ocean floor. This would explain why such a huge creature, with long tentacles covered in sharp suckers, and eyes the size of soccer balls, is able to remain hidden in this age of advanced technology. Since sperm whales feed at depths of up to 2,000 metres (6,600 feet), they would have no difficulty including giant squids in their diet.
The race is now on among scientists to find a live giant squid in the mysterious, dark, and relatively uncharted world of the deep sea. American Clive Roper is among them. He has already dedicated four years of his life to searching for this, the ‘largest invertebrate ever to have lived on Earth’, and is not yet ready to give up, despite being unsuccessful thus far.2 He believes the most likely place to find a giant squid is the Kaikoura Canyon, off New Zealand’s South Island, a favoured feeding ground for sperm whales.
The giant squid is equipped with two grasping arms and eight tentacles, each containing several suckers with edges featuring jagged ‘teeth’ to help it grip prey. Sailors and fishermen tell of catching whales covered in welts that were very probably made by these suckers.
Despite the giant squid’s formidable physical characteristics, Roper doubts that these creatures would have attacked boats, like the ‘monsters’ of literary legend. Given that only dead giant squids are found at the surface, he says it’s unlikely live specimens would venture beyond their natural habitat in the ocean depths.2 This may be so, but a great deal remains unknown about the giant squid.
We do know that it is a cephalopod which, like its smaller squid relatives, has amazing design features enabling it to use jet propulsion to travel underwater. A squid draws water into its body, then forces a narrow jet of water back out through a funnel, propelling the animal in the opposite direction, sometimes at incredible speeds.3
Unlike the octopus, which lives on the ocean floor, the giant squid is thought to live between the surface and the bottom, making its buoyancy abilities critical. Evidence to date indicates that the giant squid (named Architeuthis—‘chief squid’—by the ancient Greeks) concentrates ammonium ions in its muscle tissue as part of the mechanisms it uses to control buoyancy.4 This feature was discovered through the ‘bitter’ taste of giant squid’s flesh—so, even though the creature could provide calamari rings the size of truck tires, it’s never going to be a seafood delicacy.4 Ammonium chloride [i.e. in the concentration used by the squid--Ed.] is lighter than seawater, which is apparently why dead giant squids rise to the surface.
If not for the dead specimens found in the bellies of whales and in fishermen’s nets, modern scientists would not believe that this creature, the subject of legend, existed. There may well be other fascinating giant creatures, as yet unknown to modern scientific description, in the vast, unexplored ocean depths—especially if, unlike Architeuthis, they were neither a favourite food of deep-diving whales, nor constructed so as to conveniently float to the top when dead.
If there are such, they might even turn out to be of huge marine reptiles known to modern science only from their fossils. ‘Giant’ creatures tend to be associated in the public mind with some long-lost evolutionary ‘age’, but the existence of Architeuthis in today’s world speaks otherwise. Squids, giant or otherwise, are all descended from the cephalopods created on day 5 of Creation Week (Genesis 1:10-23).
References and notes
- Tale Of Two Monsters: Giant Squid, www. yasd.com/articles/monsters3.htm, May 15, 2000. Return to text.
- New Scientist, 166(2239):40, May 20, 2000. Return to text.
- For an article on jet propulsion in cephalopods, see Who invented jet propulsion? Creation 17(4):26, 1995. Return to text.
- Ref 2, p. 41. Return to text.