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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 16:50 GMT
Giant squid 'attacks French boat'
Giant squid caught off Scotland ion January 2002
De Kersauson says his squid was three times as big
French sailors taking part in the round-the-world Jules Verne Trophy say they have come across one of the most elusive monsters of the sea: the giant squid.

We didn't have anything to scare off this beast [...] We weren't going to attack it with our penknives

Olivier de Kersauson
Veteran yachtsman Olivier De Kersauson, who sailed from Brittany on Saturday, said that several hours into his voyage he found that a giant squid had clamped on to the hull of his boat.

The creature, scientifically known as Architeutis dux, is the largest of all invertebrates. Scientists believe it can be as long as 18 metres (60 feet).

Giant squid have been found washed ashore or caught in the nets of trawlers, but scientists have never seen one alive.

Stuff of legend

Olivier de Kersauson said the sighting occurred off the Portuguese island of Madeira.

"I saw a tentacle through a porthole," Olivier de Kersauson said from his boat. "It was thicker than my leg and it was really pulling the boat hard."

Giant squid
The squid has long flaps of muscle attached to each arm
Mr de Kersauson says two of the tentacles were blocking the rudder.

Giant squid often feature in maritime legends and novels - including Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

But unlike Jules Verne's fictional Captain Nemo, Mr de Kersauson did not have to fight with the monster and cut off its tentacles.

The French sailor says the squid released its grip when he stopped the boat.

"We didn't have anything to scare off this beast, so I don't know what we would have done if it hadn't let go," Mr de Kersauson said.

"We weren't going to attack it with our penknives."

Rare sighting

Mr de Kersauson says the squid must have been seven or eight metres (22 to 26 feet) long.

"I've never seen anything like it in 40 years of sailing," he says.

Giant squids are carnivorous mollusks who live deep under the sea.

Only about 250 sightings - mostly of dead animals - have ever been recorded.

A giant squid measuring about 15 metres (50 feet) was found washed up on an Australian beach in July.

A smaller one was caught by a trawler's net off the coast of Scotland a year ago.

See also:

22 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
14 Jan 02 | England
21 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
03 Jul 00 | Science/Nature
14 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
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