For centuries sightings of a giant eight tentacle laden monster, such as the legendary Kraken, have been reported by sailors from around the globe. Though creatures such as the Giant Squid are scientifically accepted and in some cases though to have attacked ships, mistaking them for whales, there are some cases in which descriptions of the attacking beast seen to point more towards that of an octopus of immense proportions. Currently the largest known octopus, the giant octopus, member of the Enteroctopus genus, can grow to about 30 feet in arm spread, huge by any standards, but this unknown, Gigantic Octopus sometimes referred to as the Colossal Octopus is thought by some to be much larger.
In 1802, French malacologist Pierre Denys de Montfort in his book Histoire Naturelle Generale et Particuliere des Mollusques, an encyclopedic description of mollusks, recognized the existence of two kinds of Gigantic Octopus. One being the kraken octopus, which Denys de Montfort believed had been described not only by Norwegian sailors and American whalers, but also by ancient writers such as Pliny the Elder. And the second, much larger, of these two gigantic octopus was named the colossal octopus.
On the evening of November 30, 1896, a discovery on Anastasia Island, Florida added fuel to the fire in the debate over the existence of an actual Gigantic Octopus. It all started with two young cyclists who came upon an immense carcass that was so heavy it had driven itself deep into the beach sand. The two alerted several others to the presence of the mysterious object, one of whom was a physician named DeWitt Webb of the St. Augustine Historical Society and Institute of Science, who arrived the day after the discovery with a hand full of associates. The group estimated that the mass had only just recently arrived on the beach and weighed close to five tons.
Measuring the part of the creature which was above the sand the investigators found that the blob was twenty three feet long, four feet high and eighteen feet across at its widest point. The epidermis of the unidentified creature was said to be a mixture of light pink and white, with a silvery cast. After some debate the team was confident that these were not the remains of a whale, as suggested by some, but were in fact the remains of an octopus of unprecedented dimensions. On a later trip one investigator reportedly found fragments of the creature’s arms.
The American Naturalist, published in 1897, reported the discovery and location of several of these reported arms, which ranged in size from a 4 foot segment to a 32 foot appendage. It almost appeared as if what ever the creature was had been partially dismembered before dying and washing ashore. Subsequently, a storm caused the mass of flesh to wash back out to sea again, only to reappear two miles down the coast.
Yale University zoologist A.E. Verril and Dewitt Webb corresponded about the discovery; through initially skeptical of the octopus theory, Verril soon embraced it, even naming the animal after himself: Octopus giganteus Verrill. It wasn’t long before weather conditions again moved the corpse further south, this time with even more of the body missing. On January 17, 1897, after recovering the body before it was lost forever, Webb wrote the following to W.H. Dall, curator of mollusks at the National Museum in Washington D.C.:
The following recap of Webb’s letter was taken from cryptozoologist Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark’s book Crptozoology A to Z:
Yesterday I took four horses, six men, three sets of tackle, a lot of heavy planking and a rigger to superintend the work and succeeded in rolling the invertebrate out of the pit and placing it about forty feet higher upon the beach where it now rests on the flooring of heavy plank… on being straightened out to measure twenty one feet instead of eighteen… A good part of the mantle or head remains attached near to the more slender part of the body… The body was then opened for the entire length of twenty one feet… The slender part of the body was entirely empty of internal organs. And the organs of the remainder were not large and did not look as if the animal had been long dead… The muscular coat which seems to be all there is of the invertebrate is from two to three to six inches in thickness. The fibers of the external coat are longitudinal and the inner transverse… no caudal fin or any appearance if there had been any… no beak or head or eyes remaining… no pen to be found nor any evidence of any body structure whatever.
It was reported that neither W.H. Dull or A.E. Verrill ever ventured to Florida to examine the carcass; and with out even a personal inspection Verrill retracted his original giant octopus identification and wrote that the carcass was nothing more than the upper portion of the head and nose from a sperm whale. Upon examining samples taken by Webb, Frederic Augustus Lucas, of The National Museum, concluded that it was the blubber of a whale, nothing more nothing less. Webb disagreed with these conclusions, and Dall and others expressed quite disbelief in the claim as well. Regardless, the whale conclusion remained the official explanation for decades.
In 1971, Marine biologist Forrest G. Wood and octopus specialist Joseph F. Gennaro wrote that the samples, collected by Webb, provided clear evidence that the St. Augustine sea monster, as the corpse came to be known, was in fact an octopus. Though well respected in their fields, Wood and Gennaro were ridiculed for their claim. A decade and a half later, cryptozoologist Roy P. Mackal of the University of Chicago analyzed the samples and concluding that they did indeed come from a gigantic cephalopod, probably an octopus, not referable to any known species.
In 1995, four biologists published a study in the Biological Bulletin attacked the conclusions of Wood, Gennaro and Mackal. By studying the amino acids from the carcass they determined that the animal could not have been a Gigantic Octopus or any invertebrate. The biologists concluded that the remains more than likely belonged to a species of whale and the identity of the St. Augustine Sea Monster remains unsolved to this day.
Things stayed pretty quite on the Gigantic Octopus front until June 2003 when another blob was discovered, this time along the southern coast of Chile. This mass of flesh, which had a similar appearance to that of the so called St. Augustine Sea Serpent, was huge, weighting in at a massive 13 tons and measuring some 40 feet in length. Based on preliminary data, Elsa Cabrera, director of the Center for Cetacean Conservation in Santiago, Chile, stated that she thinks the mass could be the remains of a Gigantic Octopus. Elsa Cabrera said she had contacted scientists around the world who agree the initial findings do in fact point to an octopus.
Roland Anderson, an octopus expert at the Seattle Aquarium, does not agree with Cabrera and the scientists she spoke to and feels that the mass which was discovered is nothing more than whale blubber or possibly the remains of a basking shark. Anderson reported that these so called Gigantic Octopus alerts happen every so often, going back hundreds of years, and always turn out to be whale blubber or the decaying body of some other large sea creature, like the basking shark.
Anderson goes on, in a further attempt to disprove the Gigantic Octopus, by saying that the blob found in Chile weights 13 tons, which means it’s unlikely to have come from an octopus. The biggest Giant Pacific octopus found in Chile was only 10 feet shy of the Chilean Blob, but weighed less than 500 pounds. Anderson points out that a 13 ton octopus, based on these numbers, would be much larger than 40 feet long, stating that octopuses just don’t get that big.
And so the debate over the existence of the Gigantic Octopus still rages to this day, however with the recent filming of a live specimen of giant squid, the first video of the creature, those who believe in the Gigantic Octopus have gained new fuel for their fires. The worlds largest Colossal Squid was also just recently caught, proving to the worth that we still do not have a solid grasp on just how massive even recognized marine creatures can get.
Remains, which have yet to be classified, are the only physical evidence we have of the Gigantic Octopus’ to date.
No documented sightings of a living Gigantic Octopus could be found at this time.
The Stats– (Where applicable)
• Classification: Sea Monster
• Size: Up to 40 feet long
• Weight: Unknown
• Diet: Carnivorous
• Location: Worlds Oceans
• Movement: Propulsion using arms
• Environment: Sea Floor