The notoriously elusive giant squid has been filmed for possibly the first time in its natural habitat after a Moby Dick-style hunt for the deep-sea beast.
A Japanese-led team filmed the silvery cephalopod last year off the Ogasawara Islands, about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Tokyo, according to news reports. The footage is to be broadcast in the United States this month.
"It was shining and so beautiful," team leader Tsunemi Kubodera, a zoologist at Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science, told AFP. "I was so thrilled when I saw it first hand, but I was confident we would because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data."
Kubodera and his colleagues also captured the first live videos of the deep-sea eight-armed squid (Taningia danae) in its natural environment, finding the biolumescent beast to be a fast, aggressive predator. The squid's light flashes may serve to blind prey or even woo mates, the team found.
In the new achievement, Kubodera, along with a team from Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel, used a submersible vessel in their search for the legendary creature. After about 100 descents, the three-man crew finally spotted a 10-foot (3-meter) giant squid (formally called Architeuthis) at a depth of around 2,066 feet (630 meters) and followed it down to 2,950 feet (900 m) as it swam with a bait squid in its arms, according to AFP.
"Researchers around the world have tried to film giant squid in their natural habitats, but all attempts were in vain before," Kubodera told the news agency. "With this footage we hope to discover more about the life of the species."
The giant squid has razor-toothed suckers and basketball-sized eyes and it's believed to be able to grow to more than 32 feet (10 meters) in length. The enormous and elusive creature has been steeped in mystery and legend, possibly inspiring the Norse legend of the sea monster the Kraken and even the Scylla from Greek mythology.
The footage will be revealed on "Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real," which premieres on the Discovery Channel on Jan. 27 at 8:00 p.m. EST/PST as the season finale of the show "Curiosity."