[Featured]: Architeuthis (Giant Squid) Sightings


Jul 3, 2003
:x This guy (see attachment) was found stranded dead on a beach a couple of days ago, 50 km East to the place where I live in South Africa (Hermanus, Western Cape)... but I only learnt it today through the local weekly newspaper. I can't believe it!
It is said to be 4m long and 200kg heavy. The article is in Afrikaans, that I don't speak or understand, but what I could get from an approximative translation, I can even less believe it : the meat was immediatly used for baiting (probably by the gentleman seated close to the Architeuthis?)!!! Nightmares of the late Doctor Aldrich half a century ago in Newfoudland are still well and alive...
I'm of course driving my private investigation, but, so far, I couldn't yet come into contact neither with the author of the article nor with the person who found the squid.
To have been so close of this Architeuthis and probably not being able to see only a part of it drives me crazy with frustration... as it will probably be the case for teuthologist Mrs Martina Roeleveld from Cape Town when she will hear about it!

South African Architeuthis (complement)

The strange thing is that this area is infested with Great White Sharks, and I'm surprised the body made it almost intact to the beach. Unless the bloody part between what can be seen of the mantle and the head should be the result of shark bites? But GWS are so powerful that I can't imagine their bites creating so few damage... unless they don't like ammonia?
At least, I hope I will be able to know about that when I succeed in meeting the man who found the squid.
.....is that vegetation (the green stuff) around the squid?? If so I'd say the specimen had been hauled up the beach and displayed like this, somewhat unnaturally.

The 'bloody part' you refer to Whitey is actually the natural colour/skin of the squid. To me this specimen looks like a standard trawl-caught and subsequently discarded specimen, that has drifted ashore (being positively buoyant with the high levels of ammonium ions in the mantle tissues). The roughness of the net and the fish contained within it abrade the squid's skin, resulting in the unnaturally white mantle (with the only places the skin remains being over the head, and between head and mantle). The specimen is also badly damaged, judging by the condition of the arms and lack of tentacles.

Sharks seldom take a bite out of a giant squid carcass. There is a reliable account here in NZ some years ago of a few blue shark circling and taking testing bites from a carcass, but not actually taking chunks of flesh from it.

Are you aware of any deep-sea trawling close to the area this squid stranded (something like orange roughy, or some fishing activity using nets anywhere between 400 and 1000 metres)? Trawlers often discard these animals, resulting in their 'stranding', but they're not real strandings, like a live animal finding its way too close to shore and getting trapped by an outgoing tide.

Sorry you didn't get to experience this too, and I would imagine Martina wouldn't be too happy either.
Steve O'Shea said:
Sharks seldom take a bite out of a giant squid carcass. There is a reliable account here in NZ some years ago of a few blue shark circling and taking testing bites from a carcass, but not actually taking chunks of flesh from it.

Well, that's interesting. Something to do with the amonium ions, maybe? I'd hate to get a dose of those in the ol' ampullae.


Thanks for this fast comment, Steve.
Yes, the article mentions that the guys placed the squid in a bakkie (pick-up) and took it to a garden or something like that. Sorry to have forgotten to precise it.
One of the very strange points is that, when you look at a marine map, you discover that it's very shallow all around this area. You've got to go some 50 km towards the open sea to find depth over 50m (150 feet). Stranger even, this place (Pearly Beach) is very close (1 or 2 km) to the one (Danger Point) where, during the sixties (1966, if my memory is good enough), two lighthouse keepers claimed to have watched during almost one hour a giant squid slowly drowning a whale calf as the helpless whale mother was desperately circling around, apparently not knowing what to do (Peter Benchley used this story in "Beast").
These two guys were considered as totally serious, and furthermore totally anaware about the relationship between (sperm)whales and squids, and here, their story is generally considered as true.
As a matter of fact, it's the reason why, when knowing I would live here, I studied a detailed marine map of the area... and was quite surprised about the shallow water. What was doing an obviously healthy (if it did manage to drown a whale calf!) Architeuthis in some 20 or 30m deep water, maybe even less?
Six months out of twelwe, we have a LOT of whales here, but mainly Southern Right and a few Humpback. Spermwhales can occasionnallly be seen, but it's quite rare. And that made me think - once again if the lighthouse keepers' story is true - that the supposedly "murdered" calf was a Southern Right whale, which might explain why the mother didn't know what to do? But, logically, it should also imply that the squid was the deliberate agressor, isn't it?
Well, the fact is that this recent stranding makes this old story more plausible...
I agree with you that the squid is quite damaged. To me, the head area seemed so dark red that I didn't think it might be the remains of the skin, usually more pink/red from what I thought I knew. Furthermore, I had the feeling that some parts of flesh were missing, that's why I thought about MrCarcharodon Carcharias signature (we probably have the biggest concentration in the world here), but, from what you say, the whole squid is probably only quite dismantled and stretched?
Well, I'm definitely gonna try to learn more, even if I'm unfortunately afraid it will not be a lot...
:biggrin2: It's 2.15 in the night, and Detective Archie "Whitey" Teuthis is quite happy and proud about his investigations! I succeeded in going back to the very origin of this South African stranding... which, by the way, happened not a couple of days, but a couple of weeks ago (around July 20)!!! It looks like some informations don't spread that fast here...
So, even more than it was to be expected, not the smallest piece of this Architeuthis flesh is still existing, apart... but I'll keep it for the end. The people who found the body didn't have any idea about its scientific possible interest, but they were nevertheless conscious about its rarity, so they phoned an official organization in Cape Town (they guess they remember it was the Aquarium)... where somebody told them that, no, thank you, they were not interested!
So the whole body was used as bait indeed... From their experience - they are not professional fishermen, but definitely experienced "sea people" - they agree that, considering the condition of the body, the squid (I learnt that here it's commonly called "ink fish") might very well have been trawled... which nevertheless doesn't solve the 'mystery' of the less than 50 m deep water more than 50 km around.
The two eyes were in place, complete, at the time of the discovery. They evaluated the weight to 200 kg and probably more. They say it was a hell of a task to charge it on the pick-up.
All these guys were extremely nice people, and they tried their best to help this crazy Frenchman living in their country and obviously fascinated by this ugly marine animal. Which means I had to drink a lot of home-made and awfully strong alcohol :bonk: , but well, research deserves some self-sacrifices. I just hope there's not too many typing errors in this post...
OK, last but not least : something was remaining. The whole buccal mass... and I've got it!!! I was so excited I apprehensively and politely offered to buy it, and the holder refused. I had started timidly, but I was decided to insist... and then he said "But I'll give it to you!" Happpppppy, me? You bet?
The beak is quite damaged (they say they found it like this), but nevertheless impressive... and it stinks like hell! I'm afraid my fridge (and maybe my hands?) will never recover.
I didn't get the time to take any measurement or photos, and I'm too tired now, but I will, and post them here if anybody is interested.
Don't prepare your $ and credit cards! I'm just like a child in front of a Christmas tree : I didn't already live "my most beautiful nightmare" by meeting a living Architeuthis when diving, but I have a part of one, and not the worst one. And I guess Dr O'Shea will agree with me when I say I have no feeling of depriving science of anything by keeping a sole buccal mass for myself?
Congratulations Whitey; you're one of very few people world-wide that now possesses the buccal mass/beaks of giant squid. Just one word of caution - don't try and dry them out for display purposes. The beaks are quite thin and delicate; the best thing you can do is extract them from the rotting buccal musculature and then preserve them in 40% isopropyl alcohol or 70% ethanol. Otherwise they will curl up when they dry out and look quite 'unimpressive'; they'll also be prone to fungal attack.

Looking forward to pictures, eventually.
South African Architeuthis pics

Please find herefater 2 of the 4 other pics (see attachments) I could get from the people who found the Architeuthis. I'm afraid they don't reveal any "scoopy" element, but, apart Dr O'Shea, most of us don't see that often this kind of animal, so I guess a lot of you will enjoy.
By the way, the two gentlemen on the left on Arc PB-2 are Anton (standing) and Gerhard. Off any cephalopod topic, their concern and kindness to help a weird giant "inkfish"-crazy Frenchman yesterday deserves to be underlined. Third and fourth photographs can be found in the next post. 8)



:? ??? Burstovenergy, pics were made by the guys who found the squid, immediatly after they found it (more accurately after they removed it from the beach), THEN they used the flesh for baiting.
As a matter of fact, I was quite misquoted in the newspaper - and yes, I'm definitely "convinced" (!) what is sitting in my fridge is from a real giant squid... and it's not a head, but a buccal mass! -, but I guess I understood they were mainly wondering ( see : "... what is believed to be a giant squid... ") if more or less 4m long is giant enough to be a GIANT squid?
Well, let's wait and hope for the next one now... Got the right to dream, isn't it? :notworth:

Phil, what about my signature engraved in the beak itself and filled with 24K gold? Please feel free to set a (giant!) reserve price... :lol:
Re: Pics

Whitey said:
Well, let's wait and hope for the next one now... Got the right to dream, isn't it? :notworth:

Another one hooked! Welcome to the roller-coaster ride of your life.
Another one hooked! Welcome to the roller-coaster ride of your life.

Hi Steve. Another what hooked? Another Architeuthis? When, where? On the beach right under my house? In my garden (there was a huge storm these last days, so why not?)?:wink:
Or are you talking about me? To be honest, I guess I'be been hooked since the beginning of the sixties, right after discovering Bernard Heuvelmans' In the wake of sea monsters... but of course this stranding so close to my place didn't really improve my addiction (not to talk about this stinking beak definitely busy devaluating my fridge's value by 300%)!
All the best. :smile:

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