(Photo : NHK/NEP/Discovery Channel)
The giant squid may be one of the largest creatures lurking in the ocean's depths, but it's also one of the most elusive and mysterious; scientists know relatively little about the animal. On Sunday, the Kraken-like sea beast will be up close and personal, though, in groundbreaking footage for The Discovery Channel's new show, "Monster Squid: The Giant is Real."
After over a decade of searching the seas, scientists captured the first ever footage of a giant squid alive in its natural habitat for the program.
Scientists filmed the 10-foot-long creature from a manned submersible nine miles east of Chichi Island in the North Pacific Ocean in a joint effort with Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science, Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel. The footage will air in the U.S. on Sunday, Jan. 27, as part of the Discovery Channel series.
The first sighting of the creature was made possible by marine biologist Edie Widder, who dreamed up a unique kid of bait to lure the giant squid.
"We paid attention to what the squid paid attention to," says Widder, the CEO of the Ocean Research & Conservation Association.
Scientists used a glass capsule Widder invented, called an electronic jellyfish, to descend to 2,000 feet under the ocean. Jellyfish in these waters light up when attacked by bigger fish, researchers said, so Widder reasoned that the light would also attract the giant squid, as it would mean food was close by.
The squid wrapped its arms around the bait and ate for over 20 minutes before releasing its meal, researchers said.
"What we were able to gain from this experience was the moment of the giant squid attacking its prey -- we were able record that," said Japanese zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera, who has studied the giant squid since 2002.
"It was shining and so beautiful," Kubodera told AFP. "I was so thrilled when I saw it first hand, but I was confident we would, because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data."
"We've got something the size of a two-to-four-story house in the deep ocean that we've never seen -- that's crazy!" Widder said.
Scientists know very little about the giant squid. The mollusk's harsh environment makes it difficult for research to be conducted. While specimens of the animal have washed ashore dead before, researchers say they have never filmed the giant squid in its normal habitat deep in the ocean.
According to NHK, the giant squid was captured using a high-definition camera that was developed specifically for the project. The special camera allowed the research team to operate at extreme ocean depths and used a special wavelength of light invisible to the giant squid's sensitive eyes.
Kubodera said this case should increase researchers' knowledge of deep-sea creatures moving forward. After searching for the animal in the wild for over a decade, he said meeting the giant squid felt serendipitous, even magical.
"It appeared only once, out of 100 dives. So perhaps, after over 10 years of some kind of relationship I've built with the giant squids, I feel, perhaps, it was the squid that came to see me," he said.
"Monster Squid: The Giant is Real" airs at 8 p.m. EST Sunday.