Sailing the open ocean is one way to get a sense of the sea’s vastness, but that’s just skimming the surface. Humans have only glimpsed the sea life fathoms below, but this peek has stirred the imaginations of storytellers yearning to spin their yarns of mythical creatures emerging from the depths.
From the ancient Greeks to modern-day writers, people have described giant squid and octopi as “sea monsters” whose masses of arms were able to pull ships underwater. Jules Verne promoted this image in 1861 with his book 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.
Verne creates a terrifying battle between a giant squid (called a cuttlefish in the story) and Captain Nemo’s submarine. Walt Disney later brought this scene to the big screen in the live-action film of the book.
In 1874, Newfoundland’s Reverend Moses Harvey established the first known public giant squid exhibit. He displayed a specimen caught by a local fisherman to help dispel fears of these beasts from the deep; now seafarers could see what was swimming beneath them.
Even today, we are still fascinated with the idea of enormous sea monsters. In 1996, THE BEAST, a book by Peter Benchley (author of JAWS), was made into a TV miniseries. In the film, a giant squid terrorizes a seaside village, devouring whales and people with equal appetite and confounding local scientists.
But in reality, there is no substantiated record of any person encountering a live giant squid (Architeuthis dux) at sea, and today scientists continue to scan the deep oceanic canyons where it may reside.