Giant squid were once the stuff of sea monster legend. With their eyes (the biggest in the animal kingdom) and tentacles, these sea-dwelling creatures eluded humans for centuries, making their first cameo just two years ago. Now, giant squid are turning up with regularity off the Japanese coast. And like Captain Ahab before him, one Japanese fisherman suspects something fishy: It must be “some kind of omen.”
Such was the concern of Shigenori Goto, who “had seen no giant squid before in [his] 15-year fishing career.” Two weeks ago, he caught a 13-footer at Sadogashima Island. “When I hauled up the net,” he said, “the squid slowly came floating up.” The strange occurrences began earlier this year. A giant squid was caught in a stationary net near Sadogashima Island; another was found in a similar situation in the town of Iwami a few days later. Then, on Jan. 19, tentacles, presumably from a giant squid, washed up off the shore of Kashiwazaki, another coastal city.
Able to regenerate limbs, giant squid have tentacles that can extend up to 33 feet. The mollusks usually live about 2,000 feet below sea level, where water temperatures typically run 10 degrees Celsius. So why are more giant squid being seen by humans? Tsunemi Kuboder of the country’s National Museum of Nature and Science, has a theory: With ocean temperatures dropping in the region this year, the giant squid may be abandoning the chilly ocean depths for the surface, where the water is warmer.