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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > January/February 2019 > Kraken: Monster of the Deep

Kraken: Monster of the Deep

Joe Nickell, PhD, is CSI’s senior research fellow. This year, 2019, is the fiftieth anniversary of his becoming an investigator of the world’s strange mysteries.

The Kraken—a massive sea monster—legendarily rose out of the ocean to pluck sailors off ship decks or even to grasp whole vessels and carry them to the depths. It has sometimes been linked to the biblical Leviathan (e.g., Psalm 104:26; Isaiah 27:1) and the “world-serpent” of old Norse tales, Jormungandr. It was so large, some said, it could be mistaken for an island. It was a fitting subject for Tennyson’s apocalyptic sonnet, “The Kraken” (1830):

Below the thunders of the upper deep,

Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,

His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep

The Kraken sleepeth ....

(Leach 1984, 589; Levy 1999, 18–23).

It is now clear that accounts of the multi-appendaged creature best describe the giant squid, although it is only a fraction of the length attributed to the mythic beast.

It is now clear that accounts of the multi-appendaged creature best describe the giant squid, although it is only a fraction of the length attributed to the mythic beast. The giant squid’s genus is Architeuthis, and there is only a single species. (An even larger squid—Mesonychoteuthis or the colossal or Antarctic squid—exists, but its range is roughly south of the tips of South America, Africa, and New Zealand [Dockett 2017; “Colossal” 2018].)1

Despite the identification of the Kraken as the giant squid, however, there remains much to investigate— both about the maximum size of the actual creature and the accuracy of some accounts that may be greatly exaggerated or even outright fictional.

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