Do any truly '20K Leagues Under the Sea'-size Giant Squid really exist?

There was that Japanese undersea footage of the first ever seen alive so-called Giant Squid, and there’s that New Zealand (I think) footage of one (a ‘Colossal Squid’ actually) floundering at the surface, and doing a search here I found an Australian video of a dissection of one, etc.

Problem is, not to at all diminish the research of these people and everyone else who’s studying them, but none of these specimens are what I would describe as giant (let alone ‘colossal’!) Sure, compared to 99.9% of all other squid species they are, but compared to us humans I think they only qualify as, say, big?

Is it really likely that today, down in the ocean depths somewhere, there are indeed squids whose mantle alone is the size of a killer whale? That’s the big problem I have with calling them ‘giant’. Because even though it may have 50’ long tentacles, in my mind it still isn’t ‘giant’ if the mantle is only, like, the size of a big yellowfin tuna!

I wanna see gigantic! The kind that Kirk Douglas, James Mason et al. fought & killed in the Disney movie! A true, honest to goodness, nightmare monster! Do these things really exist? Or are oceanologists just milking the idea for romance (& funding)?

And yes I do know that:[ol]
[li]In the Jules Verne novel it was a giant *octopus *that attacked the Nautilus, not a giant squid[/li][li]Squid can’t support any of their own weight above water so we’re never going to see a ‘Kraken’ like beast sinking a ship…[/li][/ol]

Well, none bigger than colossal squids are known, so there’s not really a GQ answer about whether or not they exist. (Well, I suppose the GQ answer would be that they’re very unlikely to…)

But honestly, you wouldn’t if confronted with a 14m long tentacled beast say: “Damn, that’s one huge cephalopod?” I mean, that is roughly twice as big as a killer whale; certainly big enough to warrant ‘colossal’ to me.

Actually I just check this on the wiki and the largest colossal squid on record was 1100 lbs. Typical orca weights are 3-4 tons for females and 5-6 tons for males. (So orcas are between 6-12 times bigger than the squid.)

Well, heavier, not bigger. In length – which I think is the usual measure of size here --, colossal squids get up to 14m, while orcas measure around 7-8m. Nice username/post combo, by the way.

What I don’t get is when people say things like “The kraken is a mythological beast, which was probably inspired by the giant squid”. What’s a kraken? It’s a really big squid. And those actually exist. In other words, krakens aren’t mythological; they’re real.

Um, yes and no. The kraken is a giant cephalopod, the size of the typical caravel or frigate. Bodywise it has characteristics of the nautilus and the octopus, but with tentacles longer and stronger than anything outside Japanese porn. What people mean is that the real-world animal most closely resembling it, which may have given rise to the legends featuring it, is the giant squid (not necessarily Architeuthis, but including the colossals and other Squids Of Unusual Size.

By analogy, the Roc is a giant flying bird, resembling an eagle large enough to pick up elephants in its talons. Its chicks were the size of ostriches, give or take 20%. Again the real-life creature most closely paralleling this is the Aepyornis, the “elephant bird” of Madagascar, extinct in recent times, adults of which were white- or yellow-colored flightless birds of roughly ostrich size, resembling the young of a truly gigantic bird.

As that great epistemologist Wm. J. Clinton observed, “it all depends on what your meaning of ‘is’ is.”

That’s only a factor of 2 or so exaggeration, which isn’t all that bad for a creature that’s mostly in the water and which you’ll therefore never get a good look at. There’s a difference between describing a squid as being twice as big as it really is, and describing an eagle as being big enough to pick up elephants.

To quote Moby Dick:

Release the…!

Oh, never mind.

Huh, there’s a kraken in Moby Dick? I never realized. And yeah, furlongs is considerably larger than any real giant squid. Is that definitely a single organism?

For anyone unfamiliar with American units, by the way (which includes most Americans), a furlong is an eighth of a mile.

Speaking of squids, WTF? Nasty creatures, how did they form? Are they prey to anything (the big guys)? Where are the big ones and how close to the surface do they roam? Would they kill me if they saw or sensed me? I just, I just don’t like em…

Hell by fishermen’s standards, that counts as understatement.

By the 19th century, Kraken were imagined to be giant octopus or squid, but in earlier descriptions it is more crab like, and the size of an island.

It might be more accurate to say later depictions of the Kraken were inspired by the giant squid.

Adding to the OP’s question:

In my old Jacques Cousteau books (late 70s), they usually showed paintings of a Giant Squid wrapped around a sperm whale, where it was nearly the same size. Do squids like that exist?

To me, it’s colossal only if it could it wrap its tentacles around a frigate, like in the illustrations.

The tentacles are at least close to being long enough for that, though there are probably other restrictions preventing it (are they strong enough to reach completely out of the water, without buoyancy?).

The proportions are more like in this diorama at the American Museum of Natural History.

Actually, it is a squid. The 18th chapter of 20,000 Leagues is translated The Poulps or The Squid, depending on who is doing the translation. Verne doe use the French word for Squid (calmar) to describe it, although in one description he only gives it eight tentacles instead of ten. But he never uses the French name for Octopus (pieuvre). They see an 8 meter long squid out tyhrough the viewing port of the Nautilus (which is about the size of the Giant Squid model they used to have in the olf Hall of Invertebrates at the American Museum of Naytural History*, and about the implied size of the one in the diorama Colibri mentions.

When the Nautilus is stopped, it is by a group of temn to twelve “giant squid”, although it’s not clear that they’re all as big at the 8 meter one they saw. In any event, they certainly aren’t attacked by a single truly monstrous one as they inevitably shown in the movies.
I wrote a Teemings column about this, way back when:

Here is an interesting webpage about the giant squid (and various claims for its maximum size) that I found :

Not only that, but apparently the whale is quite the talker.