While I was away at CES looking over the latest in gadgets, a technology that is even more interesting hit the news after it allowed us to see a giant squid, alive and on camera, for the first time ever.
First, let's address the craziness of seeing a giant squid in its natural environment. This is a creature that has been out of reach of scientists for centuries. Barely understood for most of that time because of the rarity of finding complete specimens to study, it seemed like a far-off dream to be able to study one alive. But when the natural habitat of live giant squid is deep, cold, dark ocean waters, getting close is a tall order. And that is where the new technology comes into play.The video above is was taken 2,000 feet below the surface of the North Pacific Ocean. The researchers on the expedition to film the squid -- lead by Japanese zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera -- were able to gather an astounding 23 minutes of video of a live giant squid. They did this with camera technology invented by Edith Widder.
If that name sounds familiar, it should. Widder is an incredible scientists and the mind behind how to use bioluminescence to mimic natural species and study deep sea creatures. She has a fascinating TED talk on her work online as well.
Widder figured that if a predator has evolved to use light to attract prey, then they must be on to something -- and we can use similar light to attract deep sea creatures to the cameras of researchers. It was her camera system called the Medusa that caught the giant squid on camera.
The LA Times writes, "The lure mimics the bioluminescent display of a jellyfish that has been caught by a predator. Widder hypothesized that the light is designed to attract the attention of a predator of the jellyfish's predator. The Medusa's encounter with the giant squid would appear to support her theory."
Leslie Schwerin, a producer for the Discovery Channel, told the LA Times, "The color surprised everyone. It was silver and gold, and it would change colors. The eye was very human looking, but the whole creature just looked like an alien."
You'll be able to see more video on January 27 when it airs as part of Discovery Channel's "Monster Squid: The Giant is Real."
And, really, the fact that we are only just now, in the year 2013, seeing one of the most famous beasts of the deep on camera should be more than enough to convince us of the fact that we have untold amounts to learn about the deep. Stories like this are jaw-dropping reminders of why ocean research needs our attention and funding.