The Cryptid Zoo: Kraken

From ancient times, sailors have reported seeing a huge sea monster with many tentacles, called the kraken. Sailors knew about the octupus and squid, real ocean animals that had tentacles. However, the kraken was considered to be a different species because it was much, much bigger. Sometimes it was thought to be a giant octopus, sometimes it was thought to be a giant squid. Much of the time, it was simply a big sea monster called the kraken.

The kraken was portrayed as a legendary supernatural creature in the film 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' even though it is now known to be a real animal. This movie still is copyright Walt Disney Pictures.

During the early part of the scientific era, the kraken was considered just as likely to exist as sea serpents. In other words, it was laughed at. Serious scientists steered clear of the kraken question, refusing to study it even when presented with beached kraken carcasses. Then there came a time when everything changed. Several kraken carcasses were beached within a short time of each other, and there was such an uproar that the reluctant scientists were forced to pay attention.

The kraken was declared a real species. It was named the giant squid. The giant squid remains one of the most elusive large animals in the world. For many years, scientists tried to observe the giant squid in its habitat, but failed. Many people claimed to have seen giant squids, but they were mostly fishermen and sailors, the same people who are not believed when they report sea serpents. Every live sighting was unconfirmed and in each case the witness was not a scientist. Scientists spent millions of dollars on expeditions, but could not obtain video footage of a live squid. Everything that was known about giant squids was based on dead bodies. All expeditions into deep water in search of the natural habitat of giant squids had proved fruitless. The giant squid still had much in common with mythical creatures and true cryptids, even though the scientific community no longer had any doubt that giant squids exist.

In September of 2004, that finally changed. Japanese scientists attracted a giant squid with a baited line, and automatic cameras took more than 500 photographs of the giant squid before it ripped itself free, leaving an 18-foot length of tentacle still attached to the bait.

There is still doubt about just how big giant squids get. Both eyewitness sightings and sucker scars on sperm whales seem to indicate that there are squids much bigger than any dead body we currently have. Most scientists refuse to believe that squids that huge could exist. Is there more than one species of giant squid out there, with one of them being really, really huge? Are the giant squids that have been netted near the surface or that have washed up on beaches the smaller ones?

Skepticism towards the idea of truly huge squids has weakened recently. Now, scientists think that the Antarctic species of squid called Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni actually grows much bigger than the giant squid. They don't have proof of this yet, as the only complete specimens of Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni have been juveniles, but the size of these babies suggests that really big adults are out there. In recognition of this, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni has recently been given the common name of "colossal squid."

You can find out more about the Kraken from the following sources:

BBC News. Live Giant Squid Caught on Camera

BBC News. Super Squid Surfaces in Antarctic

Blackman, W. Haden. The Field Guide to North American Monsters New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Page 62

Campbell, Elizabeth Montgomery and Solomon, David. The Search for Morag. New York: Walker, 1973. Pages 53-54, 66

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 128-130

Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999. Pages 254-259

Coleman, Jerry D. Strange Highways: A Guidebook to American Mysteries & the Unexplained. Alton, Illinois: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2003. Page 22
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Ellis, Richard. Monsters of the Sea: The Truth about the Loch Ness Monster, the Giant Squid, Sea Serpents, Mermaids, and Other Fantastic Creatures of the Deep

Ellis, Richard. The Search for the Giant Squid.

Markle, Sandra. Outside and Inside Giant Squid.

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 3, 22, 110-111, 148, 167-169, 175, 194, 232, 236, 320, 331, 333-334, 341, 369, 416, 476, 487

Owen, James. Holy Squid! Photos Offer First Glimpse of Live Deep-Sea Giant.

Rose, Carol. Giants, Monsters and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend and Myth. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2000. Pages 212-213

Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Page 208

Weidensaul, Scott. The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species. New York: North Point Press, 2002. Page 178-179

Wikipedia, The. Colossal Squid

Wikipedia, The. Giant Squid

Wikipedia, The. Kraken

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The text on this page is copyright 2006 by Jamie Hall. Please use proper citation if you are using this website for research.