What the hell is the real Kraken?

TThis is the tale of what the real Kraken actually is

Before we go into any more details on how to release your Kraken, we need to first answer the all-important question: “What the hell is the Kraken and is it for real?” To help us delve further into the meaning of the real Kraken, we also need to answer the question:

WWhat is Cryptozoology?

The Belgian zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans was first to list the ‘hidden animals’. He coined the term cryptozoology, which is often rudely regarded as a ‘pseudoscience’. Cryptozoologists collect legend, sightings, bones, hair, footprints, excrement etc. to prove that some mythical beasts do indeed exist. For some bizarre reason their field isn’t regarded – especially by their scientific peers – in the same lofty way as, say, nuclear physics might be.

The International Society of Cryptozoology was founded in 1982 (and inexplicably closed in 1998, allegedly due to financial hardship). Zoology legends Dame Jane Goodall and Clyde Roper were both members, which should give it some street cred. Cryptozoologist get to walk the line between science and modern fables, which does seem super fun. Although, they are often criticised for following neither the scientific, nor folkloristic methods. Sometimes you just can’t win.

They search for real-life enigmas. This means no dragons, sea serpents or unicorns, as these beasts have durable mythology, but no corporeal evidence. Cryptozoologists’ study objects are also different to e.g. the Okapi, coelacanth or megamouth sharks, which we didn’t know actually existed until we accidentally stumbled across them. Just imagine running into a megamouth shark by mistake! Although I’d probably be more freaked out by that Okapi tongue…

An Okapi and its tongue which shouldn’t be strictly legal

Coelocanth vs diver! (Photo: Project Gombessa)

The megamouth shark – a danger to children since 200 million years ago (Getty Images)

So, is the Kraken a cryptid or is it real?

The Kraken was long a cryptid super star. The only evidence came from seafarers’ tales and the occasional beach wash-ups.  Even though scientists knew since the 18th century that such a creature most likely existed, it proved extremely elusive to be found in real life [there will soon be a blog on “Kraken sightings”]. There is an astonishing array of Kraken mythology [there will be several blogs on this fascinating topic] – sea monsters akin to the Kraken have been around for as long as human civilisation. However, in this blog we shall concentrate on the ‘real’ Kraken, not the cryptid or the mythos.

The Kraken can be several species of over-sized cephalopods: giant squids (Architeuthis sp, literally ‘Chief Squid’), colossal squids (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, literally ‘Middle Claw Squid’) and giant octopuses (Enteroctopus dofleini, literally ‘Dofleini’s 8-armed intestine’). The last is the one my childhood hero Joanne Duffy wrestled with. They all count as ‘proper’, real-life ‘Kraken’. There is even another giant, the deep sea ‘7-armed’ octopus (Haliphron atlanticus, sorry but I have no idea what Haliphron means) who uses jellyfish to defend himself and grows up to 4m.

As close as you can get to the real Kraken

A stunning giant squid – as close as you can get to the real Kraken? (ABC News)

Massive colossal squid caught in Antarctica (Te Papa museum)

Giant Pacific Octopus (photo: Wayne Panepinto)

Haliphron atlanticus – the giant, ‘7-armed’, deep sea octopus using jellyfish prey as defence (Photo: MBARI)

I will explain the etymology of the name in the “Kraken Mythology II – All hail the Vikings” post, but at least the Austrians and Germans call all octopuses “Kraken” to this day. Hence, my early obsession with the Kraken started even before I knew there was a mythological ass-kicking monster of the same name as well…

So, the Kraken really do exist?

Yes, the Kraken really exists, and even in real life. Not just that, but cephalopods (literally, ‘head footer’) are by far the most awesome things in the universe. No exaggeration (because, science)! I shall delve into the scientific question if octopuses are indeed aliens elsewhere [on theAre Kraken Aliens? post] – let’s just say, it’s not as straightforward as you think.

So, let’s name a few reasons why they are by far the most awesome things in the universe. They:

  • Get absolutely, monstrously ginormous [find out why on the Abyssal Gigantism post]
  • Got more than one brain [See if your puny can brain match this in the “Kraken brains” post]
  • Eat through their main brain, which also looks like a donut [Just like Homer Simpson’s – see the “Kraken brains” post]
  • Are super smart – maybe even smarter than us? [You’ll be able to judge for yourself in the “Are Kraken smarter than us?” post]
  • Can change colour, skin texture and appearance like nothing else on earth [wait if you can even find the “Kraken camouflage” post]
  • Have 3 hearts and are ocean royalty [bow down in “the Heart of the Kraken” post]
  • Have hundreds of ‘tongues’ all over their body [Don’t get suckered by the “TENTACLES!!!” post!]
  • Use tools [See how, in the “Are Kraken smarter than us?” post]
  • Can walk on land [But why? You’ll see in the “What does the Kraken eat?” post]
  • Outwit anything – and anyone [Yes. You too! “Are Kraken smarter than us?” post]
  • Can even catch and eat a shark [No. Really. They’re that badass: “What does the Kraken eat?” post]
  • See the future [We predict that your mind will be blown when we release “the Psychic Kraken” post]
  • Release ink in their own shape to throw off predators [Just try and find the “Kraken camouflage” post]
  • They get super freaky [We promise you’ll get flushed cheeks when reading the “Kraken sex” post]
  • Love their babies so much they die for them [You’ll cry when reading the “Kraken death” post]
  • Are the rockstars of the sea [And you’ll agree they rock after reading the “Kraken death” post]
  • Are also very naughty [Get vexed by the “Are Kraken smarter than us?” post]
  • Have eyes just like ours… but the largest in the animal kingdom [We will also ask and answer (Hint: it’s a clear YES): “Are Kraken better than us?”]
  • Have a beak like a parrot’s though it’s upside down [What? Yes, see “the Heart of the Kraken” post]
  • Are so fricking dextrous! [You’ll be grabbed by the “TENTACLES!!!” post]
  • Can fit through the tiniest cracks because they have no bones [Be duped by “the best escape artists on earth” post]
  • Move in all sorts of fascinating ways [We’ll put on a “Kraken moves” post for you soon]
  • Can turn into other animals! [You will be awed by the “Wonderpus” post]
  • Are the pinnacle of (parallel) evolution [It’s still a yes btw: “Are Kraken better than us?”]
  • Will smite humanity for its hubris and arrogance [You can read more about that in the “Kraken mythology” posts].

Ok, the last one may have strayed into mythology territory again. Although… there is the fact that due to our appalling behaviour kicking off runaway climate change, octopuses are one of the few creatures that seem to be benefiting from it. And multiplying. And so, the Kraken rises again… Mwahahaha.

What is your favourite Kraken fact? Tell us in the comments below.

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  4 comments for “What the hell is the real Kraken?

  1. carol
    October 10, 2017 at 12:35 am

    I am gripped by your blog-weaving history mythology biology cryptozoology and more, skillfully told, with humour and humanity.

    • Wynet
      October 17, 2017 at 2:12 am

      I second everything Carol wrote! Amazing blog, just like you!

  2. Jo
    October 12, 2017 at 6:08 am

    Epic and compelling, have never considered my love of myth was all about cryptozoology,I am fscinated by this.

    • October 12, 2017 at 6:31 am

      Thanks so much, so am I! And there’s so much more to come…

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