Literature26 Jun 2007 01:28 pm
At the end of Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab finally encounters his White Whale. In the years before and since, marine biologists have pursued the same species, and usually with better luck. Sperm whales have been photographed and filmed, and they’ve even had cameras attached to their heads to gain a “whale’s-eye view.” This research has been conducted for years, and with greater and greater success. The true prize for marine biologists has been to observe a living specimen of the sperm whale’s great antagonist and rival: the giant squid.
Almost twenty years after Melville published Moby-Dick, the French author Jules Verne wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, a book that did for the giant squid what Melville had done for the sperm whale. Sailors had reported sightings of the great beast, but scientists had never been able to photograph or film a living specimen. The filmmaker Errol Morris devoted an episode of his series First Person to Clyde Roper, an invertebrate zoologist who has has sought, with Ahab’s tenacity, to be the first person to see a living giant squid. Unfortunately for Clyde, he didn’t achieve that goal. But, fortunately for us, the Japanese scientists who did finally see a giant squid caught it on film.
The first photographs of a giant squid were captured in September 2004. It wasn’t until late last year, though, that a living giant squid was captured on film by the same team of researchers. You can watch the video, not yet a year old, right here:
Watch First Person, a television series by Academy Award-winning documentarian Errol Morris, here.
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