Myths Arise . . .

Centuries ago, people invented explanations for what their astonished eyes saw - - or thought they saw.


1500s: When several large, unfamiliar sea creatures were stranded in Norway, people decided they were mermen.

1854: Professor Japetus Steenstrup of Denmark, the leading cephalopod specialist of his time, concluded that the mythical mermen were very large squid.


1861: An alleged encounter between a giant squid and French naval ship fueled the imagination of author Jules Verne, who used it as the basis for Captain Nemo's encounter with a "squid of colossal dimensions" in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

1900s: Hollywood embellished the monster myth in its film version of Verne's novel.

Curiosity Kills the Myth

  • Rev. Moses Harvey of Newfoundland bought a dead giant squid caught by fishermen and displayed it as a local curiosity. The first whole specimen available for study, it was an important turning point.

    Photo of first whole squid specimen in Harvey's bathtub

    1880: Using Rev. Harvey's specimen, Professor A.E. Verrill of Yale University carried out the first scientific study and description of the giant squid.

  • Ocean Planet Exhibition Floorplan

    Smithsonian Giant Squid Overview Page

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