What do you imagine an encounter with a giant squid to be like?
Thunder crashes! Lightning flashes! Brave sailors fight the elements, only to be plucked away, screaming into the darkness, by gigantic, pitch-black tentacles.
That was my first impression of a giant squid: the unearthly monster that attacks Captain Nemo's ship in Jules Verne's classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
So what would make someone want to go swimming with one?!
On Christmas Eve, a 12-foot-long giant squid was found swimming near some boats in Toyama Bay in Honshu, Japan. Akinobu Kimura, the owner of a local diving shop and a diver himself, grabbed a camera and jumped in alongside it.
"My curiosity was way bigger than fear, so I jumped into the water and [got] close to it," Kimura told CNN.
"This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me. I guided the squid toward the ocean, several hundred meters from the area it was found in, and it disappeared into the deep sea."
No thunder and lightning here — their encounter ended peacefully.
In real life, giant squid are far from the horrible monster of Jules Verne's book.
We can learn a bit from the fact that Kimura survived unscathed, but we actually don't know that much about the animal.
Giant squid are incredibly rare. Though there are stories about similar creatures going back to Aristotle, it wasn't until 2006 that someone actually caught a live one on video. And someone finally filmed one in its natural habit in 2012.
The reason? They just don't live where we live.
Giant squid prefer to stay deep under the ocean, where they eat deep-sea fish and other squid species. Much of the evidence we have of them is little more than the scars on squid-eating sperm whales.
It seems impossible for such a big animal to remain hidden for so long, but it just goes to show how vast the ocean really is.
Kimura's squid was 12 feet long, which sounds quite large, but the biggest ever recorded measured well over 40 feet. They're not the only mega-sized mollusks down there, either. The colossal squid of Antarctica may get even more massive. It could weigh more than half a ton — that's about two giant squid put together!
Our oceans are incredible places, and we've barely begun to explore them. Even though ocean covers nearly three-quarters of the Earth's surface, 95% of it remains unexplored. Is it any surprise that it still holds such mystery?
“With its untold depths, couldn't the sea keep alive such huge specimens of life from another age, this sea that never changes while the land masses undergo almost continuous alteration? Couldn't the heart of the ocean hide the last–remaining varieties of these titanic species, for whom years are centuries and centuries millennia?”
— Jules Verne, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"
Perhaps Kimura's footage is reminder that it's not really our planet after all. It's theirs.
I mean, do you really want to argue with this: