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By Kim Griggs
in Wellington, New Zealand
What is thought to be the biggest octopus ever found has been caught in waters off New Zealand.
Then I had a freezer clean-out and I had no idea what it was
Dr Steve O'Shea, NIWA
Marine biologist Dr Steve O'Shea estimates the specimen, which was damaged when fished up, would have measured four metres in length and weighed 75 kilograms.
"That's a conservative estimate," Dr O'Shea told BBC News Online. "It is an absolutely massive octopus."
The incomplete specimen has a mantle length (the standard measure of length in octopus and squid) of 0.69 metres, a total length of 2.9 metres and a weight of 61 kg.
Not a squid
Octopus (Haliphron) had previously been thought to reach a mantle length of only 0.4 metres and a total length of 2 metres.
Dr O'Shea does not think this animal is native to New Zealand waters
"Nothing remotely comparable to the size of the New Zealand specimen has ever been described before," Dr O'Shea said.
The octopus was caught last October in 920 metres of water south east of the Chatham Islands, by the research ship of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
At first, Dr O'Shea paid little attention to the red gelatinous specimen, thinking it was just another example of his research specialty, the giant squid.
"I have a freezer full of squid. And I looked at this and I just thought, 'Heavens, it's a pretty beat up sort of squid'. And I wasn't in any hurry to defrost it. Then I had a freezer clean-out and I had no idea what it was."
He has provisionally identified the sub-mature female as being Haliphron atlanticus. Adding to the mystery, this particular species has never been caught before in the South Pacific.
There are some records from around Japan, Papua-New Guinea and from the Atlantic. "The New Zealand form that we have is more similar to a species which was recorded off Japan in 1902 than it is to the Atlantic species.
"So although I call it Haliphron atlanticus, that's a very provisional identification."
Dr O'Shea is also puzzled by the fact the New Zealand research institute has never seen juveniles of this species in New Zealand waters.
This is despite the fact that the area where the octopus was found is extensively trawled by commercial fishing vessels and unusual specimens are routinely passed to NIWA.
"I don't believe that this animal is residing in New Zealand at all. It could have been something that's migrated in from spectacular depth.
"Not only is it not residing in New Zealand waters, I don't believe we get the full life history of the species in New Zealand," he said.
The undamaged octopus would have been a splendid sight: all the arms would have been connected by a thick web.
"It would have looked like a huge jellyfish or a great big thick umbrella," Dr O'Shea said.
When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey
Sep/16/2007, 8:47 pm
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Re: Giant Octopus
MORE ON GIANT OCTOPUS NEAR BERMUDA ISLANDS
Scientists knew that this creature is not just a myth ever since back in 1896 when a huge corpse was washed ashore on St. Augustine Beach, Florida. However, THAT octopus was dead. Scientists wanted living creature or photos. They got one important evidence in the summer of 1984. One fisherman from Bermuda islands, John P. Ingham, came up with an idea which would be very profitable for him. Giant octopus was way out of his mind when he constructed a trap for large crabs and other sea organisms which he would use at a depth of about 1800 meters (5900 ft). His plan worked and soon he started catching crabs 60 cm wide.
Then he built really heavy traps and armored them with 5 cm thick metal rings. They were 1.8 to 2.4 meters large and 1.2 meters deep. Ingham was dropping them into the ocean from his 15-meter fishing boat Trilogy.
By the end of August, Ingham already noticed few very unusual things. First he lost one of his traps after something suddenly pulled the cable. There was no obvious explanation. Then, on 3rd of September, few days after the first event, the crew was pulling out one trap, but when the trap was 600 meters (2000 ft)
below the surface something stopped its ascent, pulled the cable in the opposite direction and violently shaked the cable. The trap was lost.
Then, on September 19, Ingham set the trap at a depth of 850 meters (2700 ft). This time, they couldn't pull the trap out even with full engine power. Trilogy was equipped with a sophisticated sonar instrument called chromascope, and Ingham used it when the ship passed directly above the trap. He set the chromascope to
so-called split bottom mode. On the bottom of the ocean he could clearly see a pyramid-shaped silhouette 15 meters (50 ft) high. Something wrapped around their trap. Ingham and his crew decided they won't do anything violent. They'll sit and wait with cable engine ready.
After about 20 minutes, Ingham got a feeling that the ship was moving - like something was pulling it. He went to his cabin again to check navigation instruments. They confirmed his feeling. The ship was moving towards south at a constant speed of about one knot. When they passed about 500 meters, the thing that was pulling the rope, whatever it was, suddenly changed direction and headed for the shore. A bit later it suddenly turned again. Now Ingham was convinced that some kind of deep sea creature grabbed the trap
and pulled the trap along as it moved. Ingham touched the cable near surface of water. He says that he felt regular vibrations that traveled along the cable, like something walked on the ocean bottom, and vibrations were transferred along the cable. The impacts (vibrations) were always the same intensity and repeated themselves every few seconds. The 15-meter high silhouette, ship's movement, vibrations, traps he lost earlier - Ingham was convinced that he became the prey of a giant sea creature. Suddenly creature released the cable, so the crew easily pulled the trap out. Ingham looked at the chromascope - the silhouette was gone. The trap was all deformed and mostly damaged on the upper side. All of this clearly points to the Giant Bermudan Octopus. A creature which can keep the trap on the ocean bottom, resisting to the ship's engine power, the ocean depth on which event took place, location near Bermuda islands - octopus.
Perhaps we finally found where is the home of GBO.
you smile because iam different,i laugh because your all the same
Sep/26/2007, 1:13 pm
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