The giant squid, or Architeuthis, is widely regarded as one of the last great mysteries of the ocean. These deep sea krakens are largely known only from dead specimens that have washed ashore, have been caught by fishermen or were found in the emptied stomachs of sperm whales, which feed on them. They have never been witnessed alive in their natural habitat. That is, until now.

A crew with Japan's National Science Museum, in collaboration with the Discovery Channel and Japanese broadcaster NHK, has finally caught this majestic sea monster on film, according to The footage was captured at a chilly depth of more than 2,000 feet. The researchers descended with the beast for almost another 1,000 feet until it eventually darted off and disappeared into the ocean darkness.

The encounter was the product of extreme patience; the mission involved more than 400 hours in a claustrophobic submersible, spanning more than 100 dives.

"It was shining and so beautiful," researcher Tsunemi Kubodera told AFP. "I was so thrilled when I saw it first hand, but I was confident we would because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data."

You can catch a glimpse of the footage in the following video report from ABC News:

For some reason this giant squid's two longest tentacles were missing, but if they had been present, the animal would have been about 26 feet long. That detail makes this leviathan barely over half of its potential size; Scientists believe they can grow to nearly 50 feet in length. Since sperm whales hunt giant squid, it's possible that the tentacles were lost in an undersea battle.

The footage also shows the animal's enormous dark eyes glaring back at the camera. It's undoubtedly an eerie feeling to stare one of the fiercest undersea predators directly in the eye and live to tell the tale. It's a good thing that giant squid rarely swim near the ocean surface, and that encounters with humans are rare.

Even so, encounters are not entirely unheard of. For instance, it is believed that encounters with giant squid could be the genesis of the Nordic legend of Kraken, a sea monster reported to have attacked ships in waters off Scandinavia. Numerous sailors' tales have also told of giant squid sightings for centuries.

Any human diver who swam upon a giant squid could conceivably be on the menu, too. Divers have been attacked by smaller jumbo squid before. Just imagine the damage that a real Kraken could do!

Complete footage of the incredible encounter is expected to be aired on the Discovery Channel at 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 27, in a production titled, "Monster Squid: The Giant is Real."

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Giant squid filmed alive in its natural habitat for the first time [Video]
Giant squid have never been filmed alive in their natural habitat before. That is, until now.