The kraken of tall tales and sea shanties is coming into sharp focus, a flesh-and-blood reality. But why now?
Ellis thinks our increasing ability to peer and pry into the world’s most remote nooks and crannies has something to do with it. “We are only now learning how to investigate the ocean without sending a man down in a bathysphere or a research submersible,” he told me. “The use of robot cameras enables researchers to cover greater swaths of dark ocean without endangering themselves. The more we do it, the more surprises we get.” (His new e-book, The Little Blue-eyed Vampire from Hell, is about one such surprise, first described in 1903 but only recently videotaped in its bathypelagic haunt in 1992: Vampyroteuthis infernalis, the freakish little squid with the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, proportionally speaking; light-producing photophores dotting much of its body, like deep-sea Christmas lights; and of course that awesome name, worthy of a Norwegian death-metal band.20) Stealth—made possible by far-red lighting and noiseless cameras—is also a factor, says Widder, in increased sightings of giant squid and other figments of the oceanic unconscious.
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