This Massive, 18 Foot Long Giant Squid Just Washed Up on the Beach in Kaikoura, New Zealand. I Went Down to Take a Look.

by Owen James Burke

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand, living in a van (or soon to be) with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD


The southern giant squid (Architeuthis sanctipauli), ashore in Kaikoura, New Zealand’s South Bay on May 13, 2015. Photo: Kaikoura Marine Centre and Aquarium.

This week, yet again, a giant squid washed ashore on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. There may be few other places in the world where giant squid have washed ashore so much as they have in New Zealand, but being the first shallow-water pitstop looking north from deep, cool, Antarctic waters, the east coast of the South Island is a likely place for such abyssal oddities to make landfall. But that still leaves the question: why?


Death and decomposition may not feature this strange, gargantuan creature in all of its grandeur, but I assure you, even in an ice cream cooler, it’s something to see. Photo: Owen James Burke.


Yes, those are teeth on their suction cups. Imagine thousands of tiny lampreys planting their jowls into your flesh and you have a vague idea of what it might be like to come under the attack of the giant squid. Photo: Owen James Burke.


Photo: Kaikoura Marine Centre and Aquarium.

This was a largely intact and relatively fresh female specimen (judging by the presence of ovaries) which had washed up within hours of being reported and collected. She had no visible bite marks, despite some immediate reports stating otherwise, but considering her size and estimated age, she may have simply perished of old age, Kaikoura Marine Centre and Aquarium Resident Marine Biologist Megan Bosch tells me.

Some scientists, like Architeuthis specialist Frederick Aldrich, believe that stranding, which appear to occur widely and sporadically, are actually predictable, cyclical events. While it seems funny, Dr. Aldrich did manage to predict a small, isolated stranding between 1964 and 1966.


Photo: Kaikoura Marine Centre and Aquarium.

The massive beak of the giant squid. You don’t really want to know what that thing can do, but for comparison, here’s the beak of another giant squid at the Kaikoura Marine Centre and Aquarium which was discovered in 2013, beside a “medium squid beak”:


Photo: Owen James Burke.


Above: The beak and a portion of tentacle from the giant squid which was found floating at sea off Kaikoura in 2013, which had a bite taken out of it by something much, much bigger. Photo: Owen James Burke.


Photo: Owen James Burke.

For now, the specimen is sitting in a freezer on display at the Marine Centre and Aquarium, but pieces, at least, are due to be shipped off to universities on Aukland and Otago for tissue sampling and further research.


Photo: Owen James Burke.


A special thanks to the Kaikoura Marine Centre and Aquarium in New Zealand! -OJB

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