Kraken

Giant Cephaopod of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Accepted by science after remains that washed up near Alb^k, Denmark, in 1853 were examined, the Giant squid (Architeuthis) was described officially by Danish naturalist Japetus Steenstrup in 1857. The largest known specimens of giant squid have a total length, including their two long arms, of about 55 feet. The evidence for even larger animals is considered here as the legacy of the Kraken.

Etymology: The plural form of the Norwegian

282 koosh-taa-kaa krake, first mentioned by Francesco Negri in 1700. Possibly related to a word meaning "uprooted tree" because the squid's body and arms appear similar to the trunk and roots of a tree.

Scientific name: Architeuthis dux, given by Johannes Japetus Steenstrup in 1857.

Variant names: Aale tust (Norwegian, "tuft of eels"), Anker-trold ("anchor-troll"), Horv ("harrow"), Kolkrabbi, Krabbe ("crab"), Kraxen, Sciu-crak, S^-horven.

Physical description: In Norwegian mythology, the Kraken is a supergiant squid, with a body 1.5 miles in circumference. It appears like several small islands surrounded by seaweed. Dark brown with light speckles. High, broad forehead. Large eyes. Pointed snout (actually the tail). Its arms or tentacles are as big as medium-sized ships.

Behavior: Causes fishes to come closer to the surface when it rises; creates a huge eddy when it sinks. Said to attack ships and grasp their rigging with its arms.

Distribution: Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Significant sightings: In 1801, Pierre Denys de Montfort noted that in the chapel of St. Thomas at St.-Malo in Brittany, France, there was a votive picture showing a huge squid or octopus attacking a ship by winding its arms around the masts and rigging. The incident is said to have taken place off the coast of Angola. The ship's sailors made a vow to St. Thomas that they would make a pilgrimage if he would save them, then set to work with their axes and cutlasses to cut off the monster's tentacles. Later, they went directly to the chapel in St.-Malo, where a picture was hung illustrating their adventure.

Denys de Montfort also interviewed whalers at Dunkerque, Pas-de-Calais Department, France, who told him some squid stories. An American, Captain Reynolds, described a cutoff squid arm that was 45 feet long and 2 feet 6 inches in diameter. A retired Danish captain named Jean-Magnus Dens said he had encountered a huge squid, again off the coast of Angola, that had attacked and killed three men on board his ship. The crew sank five harpoons into the monster before it was finished. Dens estimated the animal's arms were more than 35 feet long.

The giant squid (Architeuthis). (© 2002 ArtToday.com, Inc., an IMSI Company)

Frank Bullen's description of a moonlight battle between a sperm whale and a huge squid in the Strait of Malacca in the Indian Ocean in 1875 is, at best, exaggerated.

The size of toothed sucker marks on the skin of sperm whales has been offered as evidence of extremely large giant squids. However, marks greater than 1-2 inches in diameter are difficult to verify. The suckers of the 46-foot specimen that washed ashore at Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, in 1872 measured 2.5 inches in diameter.

Bernard Heuvelmans also cites the great kraken 283

length of squid arms found in whale stomachs, as well as a theorized constant ratio between sucker size and arm length, as evidence for the large size of certain incomplete specimens.

One of the few known sightings of a living specimen at the surface involved an animal estimated to be 100 feet in length. In early 1969, Dennis Braun and two other marines on the USS Francis Marion watched this monster for more than ten minutes off Vieques Island, Puerto Rico.

Sources: Francesco Negri, Viaggio settentrionale (Padua, Italy, 1700); Erik Pontoppidan, Natural History of Norway (London: A. Linde, 1755), pp. 210-218; Pierre Denys de Montfort, "Histoire naturelle des mollusques, animaux sans vertebres et a sang blanc," in Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, new ed., edited by C. S. Sonnini (Paris: F. Dufart, 1801), vol. 2, p. 256; Johannes Japetus Steenstrup, "Oplysninger om Atlanterhavets colossale Blœksprutter," Forhandlinger ved de Skandinaviske Naturforskeres 8 (1857): 182-185; Frank T. Bullen, The Cruise ofthe Cachalot (New York: D. Appleton, 1899), pp. 77-78, 143-144; Kristian Brugge, Folke-minneoptegnelser (Oslo: Norsk Folkeminnelag, 1934); Bernard Heuvelmans, Dans le sillage des monstres marins: Le kraken et le poulpe colossal (Paris: Plon, 1958); Japetus Steenstrup, The Cephalopod Papers of Japetus Steenstrup, trans. Agnete Volsoe, Jorgen Knudsen, and William Rees (Copenhagen: Danish Science Press, 1962); Bernard Heuvelmans, In the Wake ofthe Sea-Serpents (New York: Hill and Wang, 1965), pp. 45-79; Tor Âge Bringsvœrd, Phantoms and Fairies from Norwegian Folklore (Oslo: Johan Grundt Tanum Forlag, 1970), pp. 67-71; Simon Welfare and John Fairley, Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (London: Collins, 1980), pp. 71-74; Richard Ellis, The Search for the Giant Squid (New York: Lyons, 1998); Michel Meurger, "Francesco Negri, the Kraken, and the Sea Serpent," Fortean Studies 6 (1999): 238-244.

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