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Rare Giant Squid Caught on Camera in U.S. Waters for the First Time

Scientists at NOAA captured a video of the rare, deep-sea giant squid off the coast of New Orleans

by Madeleine Gregory
Jun 24 2019, 3:29pm

NOAA, Edith Widder and Nathan Robinson 

Scientists captured a rare video of the elusive giant squid last week, delighting scientists and viewers alike.

Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) filmed the giant squid on June 19 with their underwater camera system Medusa when it mistook their equipment for food.

Footage of these creatures is so rare because the giant squid lives deep underwater, where very little light reaches. Scientists still know little about this deep sea world. Most of the remote operated vehicles (ROVs) that researchers send to those lightless depths are equipped with blinding white lights to help us see what they find.

Deep-sea animals aren’t used to such bright light, though, and often hide from these big, noisy machines. The Medusa is designed differently, mimicking the bioluminescence of deep-sea jellyfish. The camera system operates in low-light, and emits a far-red light that doesn’t blind dark-adapted creatures. Because of this design, the Medusa captured some of the first ever clips of the giant squid.

“The creature of our wildest imagination is living not in a pristine deep, but among the heaviest tools of our energy infrastructure,” scientists Sönke Johnsen and Edith Widder wrote in a blog post, referring to the deepwater oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Researchers were elated to have captured footage of the squid, rushing to precisely identify it. With their internet down, they did their best with the books on hand, waiting for the final word from their colleagues on land. A mere 30 minutes after the footage was first sighted, lighting struck the ship.

Alone on the open ocean, researchers scrambled to make sure that everyone was okay and the computer wasn’t fried. To lose this rare footage half an hour after seeing it would’ve been devastating, according to their blog post. Luckily, the computer and the footage survived. Squid expert Michael Vecchione, who works with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service at the Smithsonian, said he was nearly certain that the animal was a giant squid.

The video was captured as part of a larger mission to explore the dark depths of the Gulf of Mexico. The squid was found about 100 miles off the coast of New Orleans.

“What were once monsters to be feared are now curious and magnificent creatures that delight,” Johnsen and Widder wrote. “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.”