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a kraken swims toward an unsuspecting ship

The Kraken | Sinking Ships For Centuries

Kraken swim in the depths of the world’s oceans, waiting for the right moment to snatch a ship and pull it under. Because a giant squid’s gotta eat, right?

Kraken Origin

A kraken appears from boiling volcanic water during a storm
Tales of the kraken appeared in Norse sagas more than 1,000 years ago

The book, Moby Dick, put the kraken on most people’s radar in the 1850s, but it’s just part of the tall tales told by sailors. It was Jules Verne’s description in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea that cemented the current version of this sea monster for our modern age.

But the kraken originated with Vikings, sailing from Norway to Iceland and Greenland. They had long encountered gigantic squid and octopus-like monsters near those coast lines. These tales became legend and perpetuated through sailing cultures in northern Europe.

Some thought underwater volcanoes, near Iceland, mutated simple octopi into monsters. Others just assumed they have always swum in the Atlantic.

By the 1800s, kraken, giant squids and monstrous octopi had sealed their place in lore. Even the French got into the legends and claimed a kraken had destroyed ships off the coast of Angola, and sunk British war ships. It was also the French that got us thinking about variations in the kraken species.

Kraken Description

A giant squid variant of the kraken swims in the North Atlantic
A kraken is a gigantic form of cephalopod, measuring over 100′ long with its tentacles. The specimen pictured is a giant squid variant.

First, krakens come in variations. It depends on which part of the ocean. The three variations include:

  • Colossal squid variant
  • Giant squid variant
  • Gigantic octopus variant

To the common person, you’ll only witness the tentacles slithering around your ship. If you can see underwater, you can easily tell these variations apart.

The colossal squid variant has short arms, a thick body and longer mantle. Its suction cups will have ringed teeth and barbs to hook and hold its prey. The tentacle clubs are very similar to the giant squid variant.

A giant squid variant appears most like its smaller cousins. It has a long body, small mantle and its arms are nearly as long as its tentacles. On its suction cups, small serrated teeth help grip prey.

Both squid variants have tentacle clubs the size of life rafts, and they can generate light to attract prey in the depths.

The gigantic octopus variation is identical to an octopus, but the gigantic version doesn’t use ink to obscure predators. It doesn’t really need to since it’s the apex predator in its region. There’s some debate if the octopus has bioluminescence like its squid counterparts.

All three variants have impossibly powerful beaks that can slice through battle ship hulls, anchor chains and shred a submarine.

Kraken Territories

The gigantic squid variant of kraken attempts to snack on humans in California
Krakens are shy and avoid mankind. Expect them to come into contact with us more often as whale populations continue to decline

Generally, Kraken swim and feed in cold waters. However, giant squid variants have followed whales as they migrate to calve off the coasts of Hawaii and Baja California.

Kraken variant maps

For most people, the giant squid variant is the most familiar. These sea monsters feed across the globe. They also come the closest to shore. This may happen because the fishing industry focuses on certain banks within 100 nautical miles of shore.

The colossal squid variant rarely leaves the deepest waters of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. In these desolate areas, blue whales and sperm wales can swim freely from human predators. And that attracts the colossal squid.

As for the giant octopus, it also comes close to land, but has a well-defined territory in the North Pacific and South Atlantic. Fishermen in Alaska, Japan, New Zealand and Tierra del Fuego (Argentina) will likely find these enormous cephalopods shredding their nets and ripping their lines to gobble their catch.

Food Sources For Squids

Kraken don't eat many humans ... unless they're very hungry
Krakens only eat humans if necessary … or convenient. The specimen above is a giant octopus variant.

It’s mainly the largest whales, like the blue whale and sperm whale. In desperate times, it may go after killer whales and dolphin pods. However, smaller whales are faster and more nimble than their larger counterparts. They have a better chance to dodge the kraken’s tentacles.

Sometimes, the kraken will attack a ship or submarine. It’s usually a mistake. On dark, stormy nights, these ships may appear to have the silhouette of a whale. That entices the kraken to attack. As an opportunistic predator, it may eat a human (or three), but humans aren’t the favored prey: We’re not very filling. Ships are likely to sink after the gigantic cephalopod crushes its hull. Then, people are left to the sharks to finish off.

Krakens Today

The colossal squid, a real life monster, rarely swims this close to the surface and toward humans

Conservation will likely lead to the success or decline of the kraken. First, warming oceans will shift whale migration patterns. The kraken are smart critters, but they may not adapt fast enough to follow the whales. Second, whale populations are in decline. More countries, like Iceland, Japan and Norway, hunt the largest whales, and that may cause kraken populations to drop from starvation. Also, pollution kills more whales every year. A kraken will eat a whale’s carcass, but you still need a vibrant whale population for these monsters of the deep to survive. At the present, more whales die than births can replace.

Another concern is advances in aquatic warfare. The US military currently tests a new sonar weapon, which could harm large marine animals. These drills may cause a kraken to attack, but I doubt it could withstand an assault from modern torpedos.

This means the giant squid variant, with a wider feeding range and better adaptations to warm water, is best suited to survive in the near future. The colossal squid variant and gigantic octopus may not survive into the 22nd century.

Resources

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2 Comments

  1. Trivia: You can use either kraken or krakens for the plural form.

  2. Interesting stuff 😊

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