Giant Squid Washes Ashore In Tasmania

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The giant squid has always enjoyed a reputation of mythic proportions. The notorious squid in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was surely based on the giant squid: "It was a squid of colossal dimensions, fully eight meters long…It gazed with enormous, staring eyes…Its eight arms…like the serpentine hair of the Furies…The monster's mouth—a beak made of horn and shaped like that of a parrot…Its tongue…armed with several rows of sharp teeth…What a freak of nature! A bird's beak on a mollusk!"

Search for the Giant Squid

Mesmerized by such descriptions the scientists have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to find the haunts of the elusive creature.

In 1996 during an expedition to the Azores scientists attached a "Crittercam"—a specially designed video camera invented at National Geographic—to a sperm whale, hoping that the whale would guide them to the squid. The second expedition in 1997 was conducted in the Kaikoura Canyon in New Zealand—a spot where immature male sperm whales hang out and eat giant squid until they are ready to command a harem. During this expedition the Crittercam was mounted on the nose of an autonomous unmanned vehicle that captured some spectacular whale behavior, but no squid. In 1999 Kaikoura Canyon was again the target of another mission, this one with a deep-sea submersible that Roper piloted to search for the squid.

"It is definitely frustrating, because I would love to find Architeuthis and film it," said Roper. "But it's not surprising. Over 99 percent of the living space on Earth is in the oceans and we would have had to be phenomenally lucky to find it."

"This is part of a much bigger quest. It is not about instant gratification. It is exciting that there are still these mysteries to be probed and explored," Roper said.

As for the giant squid that washed ashore this week, it's unclear how she died. Pemberton said she appeared plump and strong with no marks from fishing gear or propellers. But, he added, giant squid have relatively short lifespans—about five years. "Her time may simply have been up."

Liquid Planet Resources

A. Animals and Nature

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National Geographic Animals and Nature Guide: Go >>

Interactive Feature: National Geographic's World of the Crocodilians

B. Sharks

News:
Follow the progress of this National Geographic expedition to the Florida Keys:
Expedition Report One: Scientists Study Nurse Shark Mating Habits
Expedition Report Two: Researchers Tag Sharks to Study Breeding Habits
Expedition Report Three: Crittercams Provide Insights into Nurse Shark Behavior
Jaws Author Peter Benchley Talks Sharks
Do Hammerheads Follow Magnetic Highways in Migration?
Shark Nursery Yields Secrets of Breeding
South Africa Rethinks Use of Shark Nets
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Are People Eating Sharks Out of Existence?

Shark Sites on Nationalgeographic.com:
Creature Feature: Great White Sharks
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Print 'N' Go Coloring Book: Great White Sharks
Shark Surfari: Online Quiz

Related Lesson Plans:
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Lesson Plan: Does the Hammer Help?
Lesson Plan: Sharks—Setting the Record Straight
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Lesson Plan: What's the Hammer For?

C. Archaeology and Paleontology

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E. Geography

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National Geographic Magazine: Deep Sea Vents: Science at the Extreme

F. Lesson Plans

Bob Ballard (Undersea Exploration):
Grades 3-5: Ocean Exploration Museum
Grades 9-12: The Science of the Deep Sea

David Doubilet (Oceans and Photography) Lesson Plans:
Into the Ocean
Using Photography to Help Save the Ocean
Ocean Conservation: Getting the Word Out With Photographs
What's Wrong With the Oceans? Can Photography Help?

Manatees:
Grades K-2: What Are Manatees?
Grades 6-8: Working Together for the Manatee

Right Whales:
Grades K-2: Right Whales and People
Grades 9-12: The Best Hope for Northern Right Whales

Aquarium vs. Natural Environments:
Grades 3-5: Aquarium Habitats

Artificial Reefs:
Grades 9-12: The Pros and Cons of Artificial Reefs

Crocs:
Grades K-2: Alligators and Crocodiles
Grades 3-5: What Did They Eat?
Grades 6-8: Crocs, Then and Now
Grades 9-12: Survival of the Fittest?

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