Anglers’ extraordinary find is no sea monster, but a giant squid

Al McGlashan, a prominent big-game fisherman in Australia, ventured to sea Friday in search of tuna and swordfish. The highlight, however, was the bizarre discovery of a fresh giant squid carcass.

Giant squid are elusive, mysterious denizens of the ocean’s darkest depths, believed to have spawned ancient tales of sea monsters. To find even parts of a dead specimen is rare, but to find a specimen largely intact and still with its bright-orange coloration is extraordinary.

“In all my time on the water — and I’ve spent 200-plus days out there — I’ve never seen anything like it,” McGlashan said in a phone interview.

The discovery occurred 30 miles off Jervis Bay in New South Wales. On board was McGlashan’s fishing partner, Justin Lewis, a film crew and Phil Bolton, who works for the regional fisheries department.

The crew obtained underwater footage of the squid being preyed upon by a blue shark, which is posted below.

McGlashan, who writes a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph, was quoted in the newspaper as saying the squid “must have died not that long before we found it because it didn’t smell at all and its colors were still strong. Most giant squid remains are smelly and rotten and just off-white by the time someone finds them.”

Giant squid can measure 50-plus feet but the specimen McGlashan and friends found was only a sea monster in waiting, stretching out at about 13 feet. It was missing long portions of its tentacles, however, perhaps because of a deep-sea battle with a sperm whale.

Sperm whales are the only large predators to specifically target giant squid in the abyss. The clashes between species were legendary in books and on the silver screen, even though in real life the battles are generally one-sided.

“Sperm whales are far bigger, heavier and faster in the water — the giant squid are quite slow — so the whale generally wins,” Mandy Reid of the Australian Museum told the Telegraph.

As a testament to the elusive nature of giant squid, the first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat were not captured until 2004, by Japanese scientists 600 miles south of Tokyo, in a known sperm whale feeding area. They dropped a baited line with a special camera to about 3,000 feet and snagged a 26-foot squid, which stayed on the hook for several hours.

McGlashan and friends were also fishing in an area where sperm whales are often sighted, though none were sighted on this excursion. A lone albatross sitting on some kind of clump is what lured the fishermen to the squid carcass.

The anglers collected tissue samples and the beak for the museum, then left the rest for the blue shark and other scavengers.

— Image was provided by Al McGlashan for this story and is and protected by copyright laws

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