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Mythology Comes To Life – Kraken Is Real


By James Donahue

March 2006


On exhibit in England’s Natural History Museum is a giant squid, probably the largest ever found. This creature measures 30-feet in length, has eight thick “arms”, two extra-long tentacles lined with suckers ringed with teeth, and massive eyes measuring 10 inches across.


The squid, caught off the Falkland Islands last April, is believed to live at depths of up to 3,300 feet and are rarely seen. But they apparently were seen on occasions by early ocean navigators, thus becoming the foundation of the ancient stories of sea monsters.


Reports of sea monsters, many of them looking much like this squid in the old artist’s drawings, date back to the 1530s. But sailors, who have long been known for their superstitions and tall tales, were thought to have invented such stories. Nobody took them seriously until a Japanese underwater film crew captured a squid on film for the first time about one year ago.


The legend of this particular sea monster may have originated in Norway and Iceland, where early seafarers encountered what they called the kraken, a word describing an unhealthy animal, or something twisted. It was described by Norway historian Erik Pontopiddan in 1752.


The poet Tennyson wrote of the beast in his work simply titled, The Kraken: “Below the thunders of the upper deep, far far beneath in the abysmal sea, his ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep, the Kraken sleepeth.”


Almost prophetically, the poet said this beast will remain in his “secret cell” and there lay “for ages” “until the latter fire shall heat the deep; Then once by men and angels to be seen, in roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.”


Indeed, such an event may have occurred in 1861 when the French steamer Alecton came upon a strange creature off the Canary Islands and managed to capture it. As the story is told, the sailors fired cannon and harpoons, and finally secured a rope around the thing.


“But as the noose tightened, it severed the animal. The body sank.” The tail was retrieved and brought to the French Academy of Science. From what was known, the beast was a kraken, or giant squid.


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