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Captured deep beneath the waves: Giant squid filmed in natural habitat

Scientists say they have captured video of a giant squid in its natural habitat deep in the ocean for the first time. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

The world's first moving images of a giant squid living in its natural habitat have been captured by a team of scientists more than half a mile below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The ghostly pictures of the 10-foot-long giant squid were recorded from a state-of–the-art submersible carrying a three-person team of Japanese zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera, a camera operator and the submersible’s pilot, who made around 100 dives during an expedition last summer.

Although small by giant squid standards – the largest ever caught measured 59 feet – it was the first time a live giant squid had been caught on video deep in the ocean.

Kubodera, from Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science, credited the success to the submersible’s silence and hi-tech lighting.

"A giant squid would never appear before a pool of light, that possibility is extremely slim", he told NBC News. "That's why we had to use lights that they wouldn't be able to detect. In fact, they're lights even humans wouldn't be able to see either."

“If you try to approach making a lot of noise, using bright lights, then the squid won't come anywhere near you," he added. “So we sat there in the pitch black, using a near-infrared light invisible even to the human eye, waiting for the giant to approach.''

'It was stunning'
On one dive in July 2012, near the Ogasawara islands, 620 miles south of Tokyo, they finally had their close encounter more than 2,000 feet down and followed the creature even deeper.

“This was the first time for me to see with my own eyes a giant squid swimming,'' Kubodera said. “It was stunning. I couldn't have dreamt that it would be so beautiful. It was such a wonderful creature.”

NHK/NEP/Discovery Channel via Reuters

A giant squid is seen in this video still talken near the Ogasawara Islands in July 2012.

The squid was missing its characteristic two longest tentacles – and scientists don’t know why. Marine biologists said if that pair of tentacles had been intact, the creature would probably have measured up to 23 feet long.

Kubodera’s deep-sea expedition was the culmination of a 10-year project by Japanese broadcaster NHK to capture pictures of the mysterious creature in its habitat. An  ultra-sensitive high-definition camera was developed to operate at the ocean depths, using special light that was invisible to the sensitive eyes of the giant squid.

NHK will air its video footage in Japan in a prime-time documentary entitled "Legends of the Deep: Giant Squid" on Jan. 13. It will also be shown on the Discovery Channel on Jan.  27.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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