Scientists' colossal squid exam a kraken good show

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Scientists Examine Colossal Squid
By NICK PERRY

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - It was a calm morning in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea, during the season when the sun never sets, when Capt. John Bennett and his crew hauled up a creature with tentacles like fire hoses and eyes like dinner plates from a mile below the surface.

A colossal squid: 350 kilograms (770 pounds), as long as a minibus and one of the sea's most elusive species. It had been frozen for eight months until Tuesday, when scientists in New Zealand got a long-anticipated chance to thaw out the animal and inspect it - once they used a forklift to maneuver it into a tank.

The squid is a female, and its eight arms are each well over a meter (3.3 feet) long. Its two tentacles would have been perhaps double that length if they had not been damaged.

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Scientists' colossal squid exam a kraken good show
In this Dec. 2013 photo provided by a crew member of the boat San Aspring of New Zealand fishing company Sanford, Capt. John Bennett shows a colossal squid he and and his crew caught on the boat in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea.  The creature, which has tentacles like fire hoses and eyes like dinner plates, was caught a mile below the surface. (AP Photo/San Aspring crew of Sanford fishing company) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Scientist Kat Bolstad, left, from the Auckland University of Technology, and student Aaron Boyd Evans examine a colossal squid at a national museum facility Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Wellington, New Zealand. The colossal squid, which weighs 350 kilograms (770 pounds) and is as long as a minibus, is one of the sea’s most elusive species. It had been frozen for eight months until Tuesday, when scientists in New Zealand got a long-anticipated chance to thaw out the animal and inspect it _ once they used a forklift to maneuver it into a tank.(AP Photo/Nick Perry)
Scientists holds the arms of a colossal squid as they examine the squid at a national museum facility Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Wellington, New Zealand. The colossal squid, which weighs 350 kilograms (770 pounds) and is as long as a minibus, is one of the sea’s most elusive species. It had been frozen for eight months until Tuesday, when scientists in New Zealand got a long-anticipated chance to thaw out the animal and inspect it _ once they used a forklift to maneuver it into a tank.(AP Photo/Nick Perry)
Scientist Kat Bolstad, left, from the Auckland University of Technology, and student Aaron Boyd Evans examine a colossal squid at a national museum facility Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Wellington, New Zealand. The colossal squid, which weighs 350 kilograms (770 pounds) and is as long as a minibus, is one of the sea’s most elusive species. It had been frozen for eight months until Tuesday, when scientists in New Zealand got a long-anticipated chance to thaw out the animal and inspect it _ once they used a forklift to maneuver it into a tank.(AP Photo/Nick Perry)
ROSS SEA, ANTARTICA - FEBRUARY 22: In the handout photo provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries, the world's first intact adult male colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) is brought on board the New Zealand fishing long-line boat 'San Aspiring' February 22, 2007 in the Ross Sea near Antarctica.The gigantic sea creature is about 10 metres long and weighs a world record 450 kilograms -- about 150 kilograms heavier than the next biggest specimen ever found. The fishing vessel San Aspiring was long lining in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, and the squid was dining on a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep. (Photo by Ministry of Fisheries via Getty Images)
A colossal squid, caught in the Ross Sea is thawed out in a pool of brine with the help of Mark Fenwick, Museum of New Zealand technician, with Dr. Tsunemi Kubodera, Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science and Olaf Blaauw, toxicologist, Netherlands, from left to right, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, April 30, 2008. Marine scientists working on the carcass of the world's largest landed colossal squid said Wednesday the creature's eye measures 27 centimeters (10.8 inches) across, larger than a large dinner plate and the biggest animal eye on earth. (AP Photo/NZPA, Ross Setford)
Scientists examine a colossal squid arm at a national museum facility Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Wellington, New Zealand. The colossal squid, which weighs 350 kilograms (770 pounds) and is as long as a minibus, is one of the sea’s most elusive species. It had been frozen for eight months until Tuesday, when scientists in New Zealand got a long-anticipated chance to thaw out the animal and inspect it _ once they used a forklift to maneuver it into a tank.(AP Photo/Nick Perry)
Giant iris of a colossal squid, caught in the Ross Sea is seen as it is thawed out in a pool of brine, Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, April 30, 2008. Marine scientists working on the carcass of the world's largest landed colossal squid said Wednesday the creature's eye measures 27 centimeters (10.8 inches) across, larger than a large dinner plate and the biggest animal eye on earth. (AP Photo/NZPA, Ross Setford)
New Zealand squid specialist Steve O'Shea speaks in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, April 30, 2008. Marine scientists working on the carcass of the world's largest landed colossal squid said Wednesday the creature's eye measures 27 centimeters (10.8 inches) across, larger than a large dinner plate and the biggest animal eye on earth. (AP Photo/NZPA, Ross Setford)
A colossal squid, caught in the Ross Sea is thawed out in a pool of brine showing the iris of the giant eye with the help of Mark Fenwick, Museum of New Zealand technician in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, April 30, 2008. Marine scientists working on the carcass of the world's largest landed colossal squid said Wednesday the creature's eye measures 27 centimeters (10.8 inches) across, larger than a large dinner plate and the biggest animal eye on earth. (AP Photo/NZPA, Ross Setford)
A colossal squid, caught in the Ross Sea is thawed out in a pool of brine with the help of Mark Fenwick, Museum of New Zealand technician in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, April 30, 2008. (AP Photo/NZPA, Ross Setford)
Kat Bolstad (L) of Auckland University works on a colossal squid with Aaron Evans of Otago University as it is defrosted at Te Papa labs in Wellington on September 16, 2014. The squid was caught by a fishing boat longline in the Antarctic over the summer and kept on ice until scientists worked to thaw it out to begin examining the specimen. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
The eye of a colossal squid sits just under the surface of the water as it is defrosted at Te Papa labs in Wellington on September 16, 2014. The squid was caught by a fishing boat longline in the Antarctic over the summer and kept on ice until scientists worked to thaw it out to begin examining the specimen. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
John Bennett, the skipper of the Sandford vessel that pulled up a colossal squid, watches the defrosting process at Te Papa labs in Wellington on September 16, 2014. The squid was caught by a fishing boat longline in the Antarctic over the summer and kept on ice until scientists worked to thaw it out to begin examining the specimen. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
Kat Bolstad (L) of Auckland University works on a colossal squid with Aaron Evans of Otago University as it is defrosted at Te Papa labs in Wellington on September 16, 2014. The squid was caught by a fishing boat longline in the Antarctic over the summer and kept on ice until scientists worked to thaw it out to begin examining the specimen. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
A colossal squid is defrosted at Te Papa labs in Wellington on September 16, 2014. The squid was caught by a fishing boat longline in the Antarctic over the summer and kept on ice until scientists worked to thaw it out to begin examining the specimen. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
The tentacles of a colossal squid sit on the surface of the water as it is defrosted at Te Papa labs in Wellington on September 16, 2014. The squid was caught by a fishing boat longline in the Antarctic over the summer and kept on ice until scientists worked to thaw it out to begin examining the specimen. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
ROSS SEA, ANTARTICA - FEBRUARY 22: In the handout photo provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries, the world's first intact adult male colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) is brought on board the New Zealand fishing long-line boat 'San Aspiring' February 22, 2007 in the Ross Sea near Antarctica.The gigantic sea creature is about 10 metres long and weighs a world record 450 kilograms -- about 150 kilograms heavier than the next biggest specimen ever found. The fishing vessel San Aspiring was long lining in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, and the squid was dining on a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep. (Photo by Ministry of Fisheries via Getty Images)
London, United Kingdom: A giant squid measuring 8.62m is displayed at the Natural History Museum in London, 28 February 2006. The giant squid is believed to be one of the largest and most complete specimens ever found and has been preserved in a tank with a mixture of saline and formalin. The creature was caught on 15 march 2004 at a depth of 220m off the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. AFP PHOTO/CARL DE SOUZA (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, United Kingdom: A giant squid measuring 8.62m is displayed at the Natural History Museum in London, 28 February 2006. The giant squid is believed to be one of the largest and most complete specimens ever found and has been preserved in a tank with a mixture of saline and formalin. The creature was caught on 15 march 2004 at a depth of 220m off the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. AFP PHOTO/CARL DE SOUZA (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 30: (STRICTLY EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Lead Technician of Te Papa Mark Fenwick sits in the tank with a giant squid at the Te Papa Museum on April 30, 2008 in Wellington, New Zealand. The giant squid is currently defrosting to enable scientist to examine it and it will in the future be put on display at the Museum (Photo by Marty Melville/Getty Images)
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 30: (STRICTLY EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Dr Eric Warant from the University of Lund in Sweden displays the eyes of a giant squid at the Te Papa Museum on April 30, 2008 in Wellington, New Zealand. The giant squid is currently defrosting to enable scientist to examine it and it will in the future be put on display at the Museum on Wednesday April 30, 2008 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Marty Melville/Getty Images)
STRAHAN, AUSTRALIA - JULY 10: This handout photo from the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service shows a giant squid that was washed up on Ocean Beach on July 10, 2007 near Strahan, Australia. The squid, about two metres long, which was discovered by a member of the public, is the first giant squid that has washed up on the beaches of the west coast of Tasmania. (Photo courtesy of Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service via Getty Images)
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 31: Steve O'Shea, a curator at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, examines a giant squid (Architeuthis) 31 January 1996 cuaght recently off the remote Chatam Islands, east of Wellington, by the government research ship 'Tangaroa'. The rare giant squid, weighing nearly one tonne and measuring eight metres in lengh, will be preserved for research. (Photo credit should read STF/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo released by Tsunemi Kubodera, a researcher with Japan's National Science Museum, a giant squid is being pulled by a research team off the Ogasawara Islands, south of Tokyo, on Dec. 4, 2006. The research team, led by Kubodera, has succeeded in filming the giant squid live, possibly for the first time, at the surface as they captured it off the remote island of Chichijima, which is about 960 kilometers (600 miles) southeast of Tokyo. About seven meters (24 feet) long squid died in the process of being caught. The photo was made out of the video they filmed. (AP Photo/Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum of Japan, HO) **CREDIT MANDATORY, EDITORIAL USE ONLY**
ROSS SEA, ANTARTICA - FEBRUARY 22: In the handout photo provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries, Captain John Bennett examines the world's first intact adult male colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) on board his New Zealand fishing long-line boat 'San Aspiring' February 22, 2007 in the Ross Sea near Antarctica.The gigantic sea creature is about 10 metres long and weighs a world record 450 kilograms -- about 150 kilograms heavier than the next biggest specimen ever found. The fishing vessel San Aspiring was long lining in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, and the squid was dining on a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep. (Photo by Ministry of Fisheries via Getty Images)
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Kat Bolstad, a squid scientist from the Auckland University of Technology who was leading a team examining the creature, described it as "very big, very beautiful."

"This is essentially an intact specimen, which is almost an unparalleled opportunity for us to examine," she said. "This is a spectacular opportunity."

Many people around the world agreed: About 142,000 people from 180 countries watched streaming footage of the squid examination on the Internet.

Colossal squid sometimes inhabit the world of fiction and imagination, but have rarely been seen in daylight. Remarkably, Bennett and his crew on the San Aspiring toothfish boat have caught two of them. Their first, hauled in seven years ago, is on display in New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa.

Bennett said there was so much excitement about his previous catch, he thought he had better save the latest one for research.

"It was partly alive, it was still hanging onto the fish," Bennett recalls. "Just a big bulk in the water. They're huge, and the mantle's all filled with water. It's quite an awesome sight."

Susan Waugh, a senior curator at Te Papa, said scientists hope to find out more about where the creature fits in the food chain, how much genetic variation there is among different squid types, and basic facts about how the colossal squid lives and dies.

She said scientists plan to further assess the condition of the squid before determining whether to preserve it for public display.

Bolstad said it's possible that ancient sightings of the species gave rise to tales of the kraken, or giant sea-monster squid. She said sperm whales often eat colossal squid and are known to play with their food, and sailors may have mistaken that for epic battles.

"On the other hand, we don't really know what the grog rations were like at that time at sea, either," she said. "So it may be that we've got a bit of a fisherman's story going on there, too."

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