When Edie Widder saw the giant squid come into view for the first time, its tentacles splayed as it tried to attack the electronic jellyfish trick in front of the underwater camera, she felt a sense of explanation.
After years of trying to develop ways to observe deep-sea animals, the CEO and senior scientist at the Florida-based Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA), had finally figured out the key. The special camera system she developed, called Medusa, emits a red light invisible to most creatures living in “midnight zone,” some 3,280 feet below the ocean’s surface, where it’s pitch black.
The Medusa gets around this problem with its red lights, which giant squid don’t see. It worked once before, capturing the image of a giant squid off the coast of Japan in 2012. It was the first-ever video recording of a live giant squid in the wild.
The new sighting is further proof of concept. On June 19, the Medusa took the first-ever recording of a live giant squid in U.S. waters, about a hundred miles southeast of New Orleans. For Widder, it’s confirmation that the giant squid is not as mysterious as we once thought.
The giant squid sighting came as a surprise to Widder and the other explorers on the team. And its unexpected behavior gives new insight into how it hunts.
“It was incredibly exciting to see that squid actually tracking and hunting the electronic jellyfish,” Widder states. It was swimming alongside the lure for a while before it attacked—a surprise because researchers had long expected it hunted by sitting and waiting for prey simply to swim by it.