In Search of Giant Squid

Kaikoura Canyon lies immediately offshore of the east coast of South Island, New Zealand. The head of the canyon is 1 km off the mountainous coast, where the water depth plunges to 1000 meters. The canyon extends northeastward to join the Hikurangi Trough, which in turn connects with the abyssal Kermadec Trench, one of the deepest spots on earth.

Kaikoura is an area of high biological productivity that sustains large, diverse populations of marine mammals, fishes and invertebrates. Sperm whales, particularly young males, occur throughout the year in inshore waters, although separate seasonal populations may be represented. This year-round availability of whales supports a rapidly growing whale watch industry with a world wide clientele.

Sperm whales prey predominantly on cephalopods, particularly on squids, at depths of 400-600 meters and deeper. The dominant, large squids habitually captured by sperm whales generally are not captured in trawl nets, and rarely are they seen from submersibles.

The geographic, near-shore, confined features of the Canyon, the year-round presence of sperm whales, high productivity and biodiversity, abundance of squid as whale prey, all signal the area as an excellent study site to document and define a deep sea community through the prey/predator relationships of its top level predators.

Explore Kaikoura Canyon in VRML:

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The Kaikoura Canyon detailed bathymetry was graciously provided by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), New Zealand and rendered by Greg Shirah at NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Learn more about Kaikoura by:

Smithsonian Giant Squid Overview Page

gene carl feldman /