When a team of 23 researchers lowered their specialized deep-sea camera into the water, they had no idea what they would find — or when — but they hoped to find something significant.
It didn't take long. After only five tries, they captured video of a giant squid attacking one of the camera's attachments.
While reviewing the recordings taken June 19, Nathan Robinson saw something different. His excitement caused the whole team to gather as the scene unfurled before them.
Nathan Robinson (from left), Sonke Johnsen, Tracey Sutton, Nick Allen, Edie Widder and Megan McCall gather around to watch the squid video again. (Photo: Danté Fenolio)
The researchers, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), estimate that the squid was between 10 and 12 feet long.
It's the first time a giant squid has been captured on video in United States waters.
When lightning strikes
The historic footage almost didn't make it off the ship. About 30 minutes after the team began looking at the giant squid video, lightning struck the ship. They quickly ran to the Medusa to see if the equipment and the footage on it had been destroyed by the strike.
Luckily, the research vessel and its video remained intact. However, a water spout began forming not far from the boat, so the researchers quickly gathered what they needed and returned to safety.
The video was taken about 100 miles southeast of New Orleans, not far from several major oil rigs. The Medusa was about 2,500 feet below the surface when it captured the footage of the giant squid.
"Most importantly, we did not find a monster," researcher Sonke Johnsen wrote in a blog post for NOAA. "The giant squid is large and certainly unusual from our human perspective, but if the video shows anything of the animal's character, it shows an animal surprised by its mistake, backing off after striking at something that at first must have seemed appealing but was obviously not food."