Something absolutely massive has washed up on the shore of a beach in Indonesia, specifically the Maluku province, and it’s an incredibly terrifying sight. Experts aren’t quite sure what the animal is. Many have speculated that it’s either a whale or a giant squid, but no one seems to be sure.
A local man found the huge carcass on Hulung Beach on Serum Island Tuesday night, according to a report from the Jakarta Globe. Asrul Tuanakota, 37, mistook the dead animal for a stranded boat at first, until he got up close, the report states.
The Jakarta Post is calling it a giant squid, but not everyone is so sure, with other reports saying it’s more likely to be a dead whale. The animal appears to measure nearly 50 feet in length.
“The unusual finding attracted scores of residents to Hulung Beach at Iha village in West Seram district,” the Jakarta Post reported. “The reason for the giant squid washing up on the shore is still unknown, but it is believed to have been dead for at least three days before it was found.”
It’s only been in the last few years that the giant squid has been photographed and captured on video in the wild, and even dead giant squid bodies are relatively rare finds, especially one of this size. If confirmed, it would be the latest in a string of discoveries over the centuries of this mysterious creature.
Here’s a brief timeline from Wikipedia.
Aristotle, who lived in the fourth century BC, already described a large squid, which he called teuthus, distinguishing it from the smaller squid, the teuthis. He mentions, “of the calamaries, the so-called teuthus is much bigger than the teuthis; for teuthi [plural of teuthus] have been found as much as five ells long.”
Pliny the Elder, living in the first century AD, also described a gigantic squid in his Natural History, with the head “as big as a cask”, arms 30 ft (9.1 m) long, and carcass weighing 700 lb (320 kg).
Tales of giant squid have been common among mariners since ancient times, and may have led to the Norse legend of the kraken, a tentacled sea monster as large as an island capable of engulfing and sinking any ship. Japetus Steenstrup, the describer of Architeuthis, suggested a giant squid was the species described as a sea monk to the Danish king Christian III circa 1550. The Lusca of the Caribbean and Scylla in Greek mythology may also derive from giant squid sightings. Eyewitness accounts of other sea monsters like the sea serpent are also thought[by whom?] to be mistaken interpretations of giant squid.
Steenstrup wrote a number of papers on giant squid in the 1850s. He first used the term “Architeuthus” (this was the spelling he chose) in a paper in 1857. A portion of a giant squid was secured by the French corvette Alecton in 1861, leading to wider recognition of the genus in the scientific community. From 1870 to 1880, many squid were stranded on the shores of Newfoundland. For example, a specimen washed ashore in Thimble Tickle Bay, Newfoundland on 2 November 1878; its mantle was reported to be 6.1 m (20 ft) long, with one tentacle 10.7 m (35 ft) long, and it was estimated as weighing 1 ton. In 1873, a squid “attacked” a minister and a young boy in a dory near Bell Island, Newfoundland. Many strandings also occurred in New Zealand during the late 19th century.
Although strandings continue to occur sporadically throughout the world, none have been as frequent as those at Newfoundland and New Zealand in the 19th century. It is not known why giant squid become stranded on shore, but it may be because the distribution of deep, cold water where squid live is temporarily altered. Many scientists who have studied squid mass strandings believe they are cyclical and predictable. The length of time between strandings is not known, but was proposed to be 90 years by Architeuthis specialist Frederick Aldrich. Aldrich used this value to correctly predict a relatively small stranding that occurred between 1964 and 1966.
In 2004, another giant squid, later named “Archie”, was caught off the coast of the Falkland Islands by a fishing trawler. It was 8.62 m (28.3 ft) long and was sent to the Natural History Museum in London to be studied and preserved. It was put on display on 1 March 2006 at the Darwin Centre. The find of such a large, complete specimen is very rare, as most specimens are in a poor condition, having washed up dead on beaches or been retrieved from the stomachs of dead sperm whales.
Researchers undertook a painstaking process to preserve the body. It was transported to England on ice aboard the trawler; then it was defrosted, which took about four days. The major difficulty was that thawing the thick mantle took much longer than the tentacles. To prevent the tentacles from rotting, scientists covered them in ice packs, and bathed the mantle in water. Then they injected the squid with a formol-saline solution to prevent rotting. The creature is now on show in a 9-m (30-ft) glass tank at the Darwin Centre of the Natural History Museum.
In December 2005, the Melbourne Aquarium in Australia paid A$100,000 for the intact body of a 7 metre long giant squid, preserved in a giant block of ice, which had been caught by fishermen off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island that year.
The number of known giant squid specimens was close to 700 in 2011, and new ones are reported each year. Around 30 of these specimens are exhibited at museums and aquaria worldwide. The Centro del Calamar Gigante in Luarca, Spain, had by far the largest collection on public display, but many of the museum’s specimens were destroyed during a storm in February 2014.
The search for a live Architeuthis specimen includes attempts to find live young, including larvae. The larvae closely resemble those of Nototodarus and Onykia, but are distinguished by the shape of the mantle attachment to the head, the tentacle suckers, and the beaks.
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