Friday, January 21, 2011

The Search for the Giant Squid: The Biology and Mythology of the World's Most Elusive Sea Creature

The Search for the Giant Squid: The Biology and Mythology of the World's Most Elusive Sea CreatureBy Richard Ellis
Paperback : 336 Pages
October 1, 1999

Richard Ellis is one of the foremost painters of Marine Natural History art in the United States, and is an accomplished writer on the subject to boot. He’s published roughly 80 magazine and journal articles, and over a dozen books. The Search for the Giant Squid, published in 1999, tells the fantastic tale of genus Architeuthis, the largest animals in the world to have never been seen alive (at time of publication, see blow). Ellis recounts our history with the Squid, and the mythology that it inspired. Tales of sea serpents and the formidable Kraken were no doubt misinterpretations of Squid sightings, and these sightings continued to baffle sailors well into the modern era. Even today there is so little known about the Giant Squid.

Ellis details our fascination with Architeuthis, and how we’ve struggled to hunt down and understand these giants among animals. Aside from covering the Squids biology and natural history, chapters highlight the iconic rivalry between the Squid and the Sperm Whale, the Giant Squid as portrayed in literature and cinema, and even a brief history of models made of the Giant Squid (which were quite difficult to make accurately since the only specimens that artists can model them after were ones that were dead).

This book is is incredibly comprehensive in covering what we know (and mostly what we don’t know) about the Giant Squid. Ellis incorporates text from eyewitness reports, snippets from literary passages, and copious photographs and works of art to better describe our relationship with this fabled sea monster. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in sea life or a curiosity for the unknown.

The First Live Giant Squid Photographed
As a footnote: At the time of publication, there had been no confirmed live sightings of a Giant Squid in its natural habitat, and no photographic or video evidence. All that we had to study for hundreds of years were washed up carcasses and bits and pieces in the stomachs of whales. In 2004, the first images of a Giant Squid were captured by Japanese scientists using a lure almost 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. In 2006 that same team captured and filmed a live female. Though these images and videos have helped to answer some questions, there are still so many left out there. It may be many more years still, if ever, before we can truly understand all of the habits and behaviors of these elusive creatures.

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