Researchers with NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) spotted an incredible sight the other day: a giant squid in its natural habitat. It was seen nearly 2500 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico during the Journey into Midnight expedition -- about 100 miles south of our coastline. It's hard to tell from looking, but the researchers estimate this giant squid is 10-12 feet long.
You might wonder why scientists have gone into full geek mode over this video. Let's start with the expedition itself. The Journey into Midnight was a two-week expedition (just concluded) that hoped to learn what happens with deep-sea animals in the light-deprived environment in which they live. More than eighty percent of our oceans remain unexplored, and the deep ocean is especially difficult to explore. The giant squid lives in a deep water environment, where light is at a premium, and about the only time we see one is when it's washed up onshore. The crew used a specialized probe to literally deep dive into the squid's habitat, and while going over the footage on a computer, the amazing sight emerged.
Capturing video of the giant squid was a stroke of luck, but plenty of science went into this success, as well. Probes have been trying to get a look at a giant squid in its habitat for years, but the camera used in this case is special. It's called the MEDUSA, and its technology allows scientists to probe the depths without disturbing the light-sensitive creatures who live there. In just two instances where the giant squid has been observed where it lives, both were captured by the MEDUSA camera technology. Clearly, it was an exciting moment for the 23-member crew.
These two sightings -- the first in 2012, off the coast of Japan -- have already taught us a lot about this mysterious creature that lives in the Gulf. Normal probes could never get a glimpse of the giant squid, while the MEDUSA tech allowed it to happen. So now we know the giant squid, with its large eyes, is not getting near any light sources on purpose. Scientists had also thought that the creature waited for prey to come its way. Not so much anymore. In both videos, the giant squid seems to be actively attacking its "prey," and is a strong swimmer.