SANTA CRUZ -- Rough seas on the Monterey Bay on
Wednesday coughed up what few, even the most dedicated
of marine researchers, have ever seen -- the fabled
The bruised and bitten remains of what is thought to
have been a 25-foot-long squid bore only a vague
resemblance to the big-screen adaptation that has choked
ships and strangled men. But the animal's mythic
proportions and elusive ways were not lost on the crowd
of biologists gathered at Santa Cruz harbor to greet the
"This is a rare find," said John Field, a fishery
biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration in Santa Cruz.
Field later said only four or five carcasses have
ever been found in California waters.
Santa Cruz researcher Sean Van Sommeran and his crew
with the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation discovered
the giant squid, or Architeuthis, Wednesday morning,
floating roughly 20 miles off the coast of Santa
A flock of gulls feeding on the carcass alerted the
crew to the remains. Their first thought, said crew
members, was that the animal was a seal but after
motoring closer to it they recognized the chewed-up
"We were assuming there might still be a predator out
there, so we made haste and brought the squid aboard,"
Van Sommeran said.
Squid experts met Van Sommeran at the docks, where
the animal was taken to Long Marine Lab and prepared for
a necropsy, scheduled for today.
Field, who studies a smaller relative of the giant
squid known as the Humboldt squid, said he was 99
percent sure Wednesday's discovery was the legendary
giant squid, but today's tests would prove it.
The animal's cause of death was not immediately
known, nor were its dimensions. Based on its mantle
size, though, Field said the animal likely approached 25
feet and weighed hundreds of pounds.
Giant squid can grow upward of 50 and 60 feet and
weigh up to a ton, according to researchers.
The tentacles of Wednesday's catch, which were as
thick as a human leg, were mostly gone and its eyes and
several body parts were missing.
"Maybe a shark or sperm whale attacked it,"
speculated NOAA oceanographer Ken Baltz, who works with
The squid had likely died within the past day or two,
News of the Santa Cruz discovery spread quickly to a
worldwide research community hungry for information
about the little-understood invertebrate.
"I'm excited to get more data to study," said Eric
Hochberg, one of the leading experts on the giant squid
and curator of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at
the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Hochberg said there's likely several squid along the
California coast, but because the animal swims at depths
of thousands of feet, it's almost never seen and
difficult to study.
The giant squid has been caught live on film only
once, by Hochberg's associate in Japan, Tsunemi
That's left scientists with only limited specimens of
the animal and whatever remains they find in the
stomachs of whales to piece together its form and
And that, of course, has left lots to the
"The animal is just so big and so rare ... it's very
easy for people to get a little nervous about what it
is, and the stories go from there," Hochberg
Contact Kurtis Alexander at 706-3267or firstname.lastname@example.org