Sunday, July 20, 2014

Release the Kraken!

Tales of massive, many armed sea creatures date back to ancient times.  The Greeks wrote about the Scylla, a six headed creature from the depths that threatened Odysseus during his journey.  The most well known legendary monster of the deep however, is the Kraken.

First mentioned by name in the 1700s in Norway, the Kraken was typically described as a giant squid or colossal octopus.  Sailors long feared encountering this creature since it was reputed to attack ships, pulling them underwater in order to devour the men on board.

Could there be truth behind such a legendary creature?  Some scientists think so and have been searching for species giant squid deep in the ocean.
A team of scientists led by Japanese researchers captured the first footage of a giant squid in it’s habitat in the waters south of Tokyo.  The images show a ten foot long cephalopod moving through the murky darkness of the waters almost 1 km below the surface.  The footage was filmed near the Ogasawara Islands off the coast of Japan.

The team was led by Japanese zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera.  “These are the first ever images of a real live giant squid.  Many people have tried to capture an image of a giant squid alive in its natural habitat, whether researchers or film crews but they all failed.”  Tsunemi stated.

Tsunemi attributed his team’s success to a small submersible rigged with lights invisible to both humans and cephalopods.  Sitting in the pitch black water, using near-infrared light, the team waited for the giant squid to approach, following the creature and filming as much footage as they could before the it swam away into the depths.  “When I saw it, well, it looked to me like it was rather lonely.”

Giant squid are solitary animals, living far down in the ocean’s depths.  Capturing one of film is an important first step towards understanding more about the unique animal.

“I’ve seen a lot of giant squid specimens in my time, but mainly those hauled out of the ocean. This was the first time for me to see with my own eyes a giant squid swimming,” he said. “It was stunning, I couldn’t have dreamt that it would be so beautiful. It was such a wonderful creature.”

It’s long been thought that a breed of giant squid may be responsible for accounts of the Kraken.  Some scientists estimate that the creatures may reach 40-50 feet in length.  Certainly, a frightening sight to early sailors journeying across the ocean in fragile wooden ships.

The Kraken has appeared frequently in fiction and popular culture.  From Jules Verne’s famous “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” to Pirates of the Caribbean but many mysteries still remain.
Perhaps more answers will be found in the ocean’s depths.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Texas Phantom Kangaroo

Reports of so called "Phantom Kangaroos" have appeared periodically around the United States since the late 1800s.  They are often witnessed by numerous people and the animals usually vanish as suddenly as they appear.

Back in 2012 I received one such report out of central Texas.  A woman, her boyfriend, and her daughter all witnessed the animal.

Barbara had driven out to west Texas to visit friends for the holidays.  Her boyfriend and her teenage daughter made the trip with her.  On Thursday, December 29th, 2011, they were driving back home to the Austin area.  It was early afternoon and Barbara was at the wheel.  Seeing an animal ahead on the right hand side of the road, she began to slow down.  Barbara's boyfriend was in the passenger seat and leaned forward trying to distinguish just what the animal was.

"Suddenly, it sprang into the air and landed on the highway."

Barbara now had the car at a complete stop on the road and she realized exactly what she was seeing.

"Oh my God!  It's a kangaroo!"

The three travelers sat in the car and stared in amazement at an animal that clearly didn't belong in Texas.  After a moment, the kangaroo leaped again, landing in a field on the left side of the road.  It paused a moment, then bounded across the field, vanishing in the brush and tress.

Barbara pulled off the road and the three got out, trying to catch another glimpse of the animal, but it was gone.

Calls to local zoos revealed that no animals had escaped recently.