Researchers Capture First Imagery of Giant Squid in U.S. Waters

A giant squid, at least 10-12 feet in length, approaches the lure before realizing it is not food and retreating. Video courtesy of Edie Widder / Nathan Robinson / NOAA

Published Jun 21, 2019 11:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

Researchers aboard the R/V Point Sur have recorded the second video ever made of a giant squid in the deep (and the first ever in the U.S. EEZ). 

On a two-week voyage aboard the Point Sur in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, lead scientists Dr. Nathan Robinson, Dr. Sonke Johnsen and Dr. Edie Widder used a purpose-built lure to attract an appearance of the elusive Architeuthis - a deep-dwelling, mythical creature that was only photographed in the wild for the first time in 2004. Until recent decades, the giant squid's existence was primarily known through the discovery of deceased specimens on beaches, in trawl nets and in the stomachs of sperm whales, their main predators. 

Robinson and Widder were on the team that made the first ever video of a giant squid in a sighting off Japan in 2012, and they told media that they were delighted to find it once again off the U.S. Gulf Coast. The team encountered the squid at a position near Shell's Appomattox deepwater platform, about 100 nm from shore. 

After five deployments of the team's purpose-built lure, researcher Nathan Robinson began to review footage from the camera. The squid appeared twice in the background, circling, then returned to attack the lure with its tentacles. 

"We all proceeded to go slightly nuts," Widder told CNN. "We know so little about how these animals survive in the depths . . . this helps us learn something more about how they hunt and their energy budget, but we need to know a lot more."

In a post on NOAA's Ocean Explorer blog, Johnsen and Widder described the team's excitement at finding and helping to demystify a mythical beast of the deep. "Most importantly, we did not find a monster," they wrote. "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."