Science

Researchers looking for a lost WWII ship spot the world’s deepest-dwelling squid


A team from Caladan Oceanic went hunting for in the Philippine Sea for the USS Johnston, a World War II ship that sank in 1944, when they came across something even more amazing – an world’s deepest-dwelling squid.

More than 20,000 feet below the surface, the two explorers inside the submarine captured a shadow trailing along the seafloor and a later investigation proved it was a young bigfin squid.

The squid, which featured long slender terminal arms and tentacle filaments, is the first to be observed at hadal depths that represents that deepest marine habitats on Earth.

The last time a bigfin squid was seen by human eyes was in 2014, but this specimen was just 15,400 feet below the surface.

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More than 20,000 feet below the surface, the two explorers inside the submarine captured a shadow (pictured) trailing along the seafloor and a later investigation proved it was a young bigfin squid

More than 20,000 feet below the surface, the two explorers inside the submarine captured a shadow (pictured) trailing along the seafloor and a later investigation proved it was a young bigfin squid

Bigfin squid – or Magnapinna – are known for their long arms and tentacles and can measure up to 22 feet in length, but the one spotted last month was a juvenile so it was not fully developed it measured just three inches long.

Alan Jamieson, a deep-sea researcher from the University of Western Australia, made the discovery of the squid in footage collected by the researchers, which was just released in December 2021 – but the sighting was earlier in the year.

While watching the footage, he spotted a showdown moving across the screen and sent the clip and still images to Mike Vecchione, a zoologist at the Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

And from the outline of the creature, Vecchione concluded it was a magnapinnid.

The last time a bigfin squid was seen by human eyes was in 2014, but this specimen was just 15,400 feet below the surface

The last time a bigfin squid was seen by human eyes was in 2014, but this specimen was just 15,400 feet below the surface

Alan Jamieson, a deep-sea researcher from the University of Western Australia, made the discover of the squid in footage collected by the researchers studying the Philippine Sea

Alan Jamieson, a deep-sea researcher from the University of Western Australia, made the discover of the squid in footage collected by the researchers studying the Philippine Sea

The shipwreck, however, was discovered in April 2021 – the squid was spotted shortly after during another dive to the wreck.

The remains of the USS Johnston area also the deepest on record, which the team has since full mapped and filled.

The WWII destroyer USS Johnston was destroyed 75 years ago in the Pacific during the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The ship sank four miles to the bottom of the ocean, with the loss of 186 of her crew.

Bigfin squid – or Magnapinna – are known for their long arms and tentacles and can measure up to 22 feet in length, but the one spotted last month was a juvenile so it was not fully developed it measured just three inches long

Bigfin squid – or Magnapinna – are known for their long arms and tentacles and can measure up to 22 feet in length, but the one spotted last month was a juvenile so it was not fully developed it measured just three inches long

Pictured is an image of an adult bigfin squid

Pictured is an image of an adult bigfin squid

During a series of dives, the former US Navy officers were able to relocate the USS Johnston and then spent several hours surveying and mapping the remains of the 376-ft long ship.

Victor Vescovo, the American private equity investor, retired naval officer, and undersea explorer who led the expedition, spoke to the BBC about the challenges in locating the shipwreck – he also shared the footage with Jamison, which led to the discovery of the bigfin squid.

The shipwreck, however, was discovered in April 2021 - the squid was spotted during another dive to the wreck

The shipwreck, however, was discovered in April 2021 – the squid was spotted during another dive to the wreck

The vessel is famed for her brave action in the Battle off Samar. Outgunned by the Japanese, USS Johnston led an attack of a handful of lightships against a colossal fleet until it was surrounded

The vessel is famed for her brave action in the Battle off Samar. Outgunned by the Japanese, USS Johnston led an attack of a handful of lightships against a colossal fleet until it was surrounded 

‘The wreck is so deep so there’s very little oxygen down there, and while there is a little bit of contamination from marine life, it’s remarkably well intact except for the damage it took from the furious fight,’ he explained.

The vessel is famed for her brave action in the Battle off Samar. Outgunned by the Japanese, USS Johnston led an attack of a handful of lightships against a colossal fleet until it was surrounded.



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