(CBS) – Still photos taken from the world’s first moving images of the mysterious giant squid in its natural habitat have been released by documentary filmmakers in conjunction with Japanese broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel.
The video was shot last July near the Ogasawara islands, 620 miles south of Tokyo and shows a 10-foot-long cephalopod.
Zoologist at Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science Tsunemi Kubodera, who led the 40-day expedition, says capturing the creature on video was no small achievement.
“Many people have tried to capture an image of a giant squid alive in its natural habit, whether that’s researchers or film crews. But they all failed. These are the first ever images of a real live giant squid,” Kubodera told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Kubodera succeeded in taking the first still photographs of a living giant squid in 2005, and landed another on a baited line in 2006.
But now he’s come one step closer to uncovering the secrets of one of the ocean’s most mysterious creatures, taking video of the giant squid unawares in its natural habitat for the first time, hundreds of feet under the ocean.
“I’ve seen a lot of giant squid specimens in my time, but mainly those hauled out of the ocean. This was the first time for me to see with my own eyes a giant squid swimming in its deep sea habitat. It was stunning, I couldn’t have dreamt that it would be so beautiful. It was such a wonderful creature,” Kubodera said.
The secret to their success, says Kubodera, was a small submersible vessel kitted out with lights invisible to both human and cephalopod eyes.
A three man team — Kubodera, a cameraman and the submersible pilot — drifted silently down to 2070 feet and released a 3-foot-long diamond squid as bait.
They then started to film, and followed the squid further into the deep to around 2,953 feet.
“If you try and approach making a load of noise, using a bright white light, then the squid don’t come anywhere near you. That was our basic thinking. So we sat there in the pitch black, using a near-infrared light invisible even to the human eye, waiting for the giant squid to approach,” Kubodera recalled.
Little was known until recently about the creature thought to have inspired the myth of the “kraken”, a tentacled monster that was blamed by sailors for sinking ships off Norway in the 18th century.
But Kubodera had no such thoughts.
“A giant squid essentially lives a solitary existence, swimming about all alone in the deep sea. It doesn’t live in a group. So when I saw it, well, it looked to me like it was rather lonely,” he said.
NHK will air its video footage on January 13, followed by the Discovery Channel on January 27.