THE GIANT SQUIDS Genus ARCHITEUTHIS, Steenstrup The largest known cephalopods now living. Body ten to fifteen feet long; tentacles thirty to forty feet long. The horny 456 The Flying Squids and Giant Squids disks of the suckers are sometimes as big as dinner plates, according to some authorities. These are strongly stalked, and toothed at the edges with a piston in the cup of each capable of terrific suction power. There are cushions on the opposite tentacles enabling the two to clasp almost immovably at any point along their faces. A group of these clusters at the base of each tentacle. The genus has rarely shown itself to scientists. A few specimens of it have been captured chiefly in northern waters. It is theorized by some authorities that these creatures are much more numerous than might be thought; that they keep to abyssmal depths, coming to the surface only when about to die.
The great Polypus, colossal Cuttle-fish, gigantic Squid, giant Sea-devil, Sea Mischief, Kraken, Krabben, Ankertrold, Soe horven, or Haf-gufa is a better abused beast than the sea serpent. Its existence has been more clearly proved and more quietly ignored than the other.
Bishop Pontippidan in his "Natural History of Norway" (1751), is spokesman for the seafaring people of the North Sea region, though he assumes no responsibility for the statements.
I relate what is affirmed by many. The monster is flat and round and surrounded by arms. As it rises to the surface, the appearance is at first like a number of islands, surrounded by something that floats and fluctuates like seaweed. At last several bright horns rise as high as the masts of good-sized vessels. It is said that if the arms were to lay hold of the largest man of-war they would pull it down to the bottom.
The Rev. Moses Harvey has the honour of discovering the Kraken on our own northeastern coast in 1873. Professor A. E. Verrill has named the monster in his honour in an exhaustive monograph on "Gigantic Cephalopods." The Giant Squid (A. Harveyi, Verrill). Body eight to ten feet long, barrel-shaped, tapering; fins terminal, united forming broad ened dart like an arrow head, neck flexible; head of moderate size; eyes prominent, dark, socket four inches across; sessile arms narrow, pointed, ten feet long, with two rows of horny-rimmed suckers; tentacular arms, forty feet long, thread-like, with spoon shaped club set with suckers, the largest ones in two rows.
Found in deep water off Newfoundland coast. Locomotion, very swift and graceful, in a backward direction.
The cold slimy touch of the skin of these monsters seems to paralyse as well as sicken whoever feels it. All observers 457 The Flying Squids and Giant Squids attribute to the eyes a hard, greedy, sullen, vicious, even nant expression. It gleams with a sort of fiendish intelligence.
Mr. Harvey becomes enthusiastic over the tentacles.
What a prehensile weapon is formed by two such arms! For grasping purposes the human hand does not compare with it. For this tough, leathery member, forty feet in length, is as com pletely under the control of the animal as the paw of the tiger or the cat. It can shoot out like a flash, with a motion so rapid that the eye fails to detect it ; and the moment the armed ex tremity touches its prey the suckers act like a hair-trigger, and a death-grasp is established from which there is no release except by cutting off the arm itself. It is the, perfection of animal mechanism. Naturalists tell us it is the most rapid motion known in the animal kingdom — not excepting even that of the tongue of the toad and the lizard.
The sperm whale, or cachelot, has long proved the exist ence of giant cephalopods. Sailors tell of battles witnessed be tween these two leviathans of the deep. In every such encounter the whale has come off victorious. Whalers are not scientists, however, and their reports are not accurate. When in its death throes the whale often vomits huge masses of undigested squid, including arms bearing suckers of astonishing size. "As big as dinner plates," sailor say. Tentacles have been found in whales' stomachs after capture that measured nearly thirty feet. The portion of these members upon which the digestive juices had acted longest were found to be converted into a clear, gristly condition, with a greenish colour and peculiar fragrance. This is ambergris, a staple perfume.