The real-life origins of the legendary Kraken

    The kraken is perhaps the largest monster ever imagined by mankind. In Norse folklore, it was said to haunt the seas from Norway through Iceland to Greenland. the kraken had a knack for harassing ships and many pseudo-scientific reports (including naval officials) said that it would attack ships with its strong arms. if this strategy failed, the beast would begin to swim in circles around the ship, creating a fierce whirlwind to drag the ship down.

    Of course, to be worth it, a monster must have a taste for human flesh. legends say that the kraken could devour the entire crew of a ship at once. But despite its fearsome reputation, the monster could also bring benefits: It swam accompanied by huge schools of fish that cascaded down its back when it emerged from the water. thus, brave fishermen could risk getting close to the beast to ensure a bountiful catch.

    The history of the kraken dates back to an account written in 1180 by King Sverre of Norway. As with many legends, the Kraken began with something real, based on sightings of a real animal, the giant squid. For ancient navigators, the sea was treacherous and dangerous, hiding a horde of monsters in its inconceivable depths. any encounter with an unknown animal could get a mythological touch from the stories of the sailors. after all, the story grows on the narrative.

    scientific legend

    The force of the myth became so strong that the kraken could still be found in early modern scientific studies of the natural world in Europe in the 18th century. not even carl linnaeus -father of modern biological classification- could avoid it and included the kraken among the cephalopod molluscs in the first edition of his innovative systema naturae (1735).

    But when, in 1853, a giant cephalopod was found washed up on a Danish beach, the Norwegian naturalist Japetus Steenstrup recovered the animal’s beak and used it to scientifically describe the giant squid, Architeuthis dux. and so what had become legend officially entered the annals of science, returning our image of the kraken to the animal that originated the myths.

    After 150 years of research on the giant squid that inhabits all the world’s oceans, there is still much debate as to whether they represent a single species or as many as 20. The largest recorded architeuthis reaches 18 meters in length, including the pair of very long tentacles, but the vast majority of specimens are much smaller. The giant squid’s eyes are the largest in the animal kingdom and are crucial in the murky depths it inhabits (up to 1,100 meters deep, perhaps reaching 2,000 meters).

    Like other squid species, architeuthis have pockets in their muscles that contain an ammonia solution that is less dense than seawater. this allows the animal to float underwater, meaning it can remain stable without actively swimming. the presence of nasty ammonia in their muscles is also probably why jumbo squid have yet to be fished to near extinction.

    hunter or prey?

    For many years, scientists debated whether the giant squid was a swift and agile hunter like the powerful predator of legends or an ambush hunter. After decades of discussion, a welcome answer came in 2005 with the unprecedented filming of Japanese researchers t. Kubodera and K. I died. They filmed a live architeuthis in its natural habitat, 900 m deep in the North Pacific, showing that it is, in fact, a fast and powerful swimmer that uses its tentacles to capture prey.

    despite its size and speed, architeuthis has one predator: the sperm whale. the battles between these titans must be frequent, since it is common to find scars on the skin of the whales left by the tentacles and arms of the squids, which have suction cups covered with sharp chitinous structures similar to teeth. but architeuthis doesn’t have the muscles in its tentacles to use to contract prey and can never best a sperm whale in a “duel”. his only option is to flee, covering his escape with the usual cloud of cephalopod ink.

    While we now know it’s not just a legend, the giant squid remains perhaps the most elusive large animal in the world, which has greatly contributed to its aura of mystery. many people today are still surprised to learn that it actually exists. After all, even after so much scientific research, the kraken lives on in the popular imagination thanks to movies, books, and computer games, even if it sometimes appears in the wrong mythology, like the 1981 (and 2010) ancient Greek epic Clash ). of the titans these depictions have come to define him in the public mind: a beast that lurks in sunken ships waiting for reckless divers.

    Related articles



    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Share article

    Latest articles