Beachgoers in South Africa had a rare encounter with an “astounding” giant squid when it randomly washed up on the sand.
Scientists keen to study and dissect the elusive creature weighing more than a baby elephant and over twice the size of a grown man, have put it in a freezer for safe keeping.
Giant squid can grow up to 43 feet long, and their terrifying size is thought to have inspired belief in the existence of the kraken, a mythological sea monster.
They’re also extremely shy, having never been photographed alive before 2002, and only being filmed for the first time in 2006.
But now one lucky group of beachgoers have had their own close encounter with the huge creature, finding one washed up on the shores of Britannia Bay, South Africa.
Pictures from one of the group, Adéle Grosse, shows the sea beast intact with a huge cone-shaped body, enormous eyes – the largest in the animal kingdom – and eight sprawling tentacles.
A beak-like mouth can also be seen where the arms meet, which is used by the giant to devour its diet of deep-sea fish and smaller squid species.
Marine biologists at Iziko Museums of South Africa were soon alerted to the find and are now preserving the 440lb specimen.
Wayne Florence, curator of marine invertebrates, said: “It is rather astounding to see it in the flesh.
“We have had major public interest with many people being surprised that giant squid actually exist!”
At this point, it’s unclear what led to the creature’s death, but scientists hope to closely study the 14ft-long squid once coronavirus restrictions ease.
“The cause of death may only be known when we dissect the specimen, after the Covid-19 lockdown is lifted,” said Dr Florence.
“But the specimen was in very good physical condition so I think we can rule out something like trawl damage.
“The specimen is already in the museum holding freezer and we have done preliminary measurements and taken tissue samples for DNA analyses.
“It will be dissected by an expert squid scientist to document it scientifically, then it will be prepared, imaged, digitised and preserved in ethyl alcohol for long term storage in our collection.
“We may even decide to put this one on display for the general public in an upcoming exhibition.”