Giant 'mystery creature' filmed by scientists exploring Red Sea shipwreck

Talk about a real-life Squid Game.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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This deep-sea animal surprised OceanX scientists when they spotted it on camera while investigating a shipwreck in the Red Sea.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

It's cool enough to find a shipwreck. It's even better to spot a massive, mysterious sea creature hanging out with the wreck. That's what happened to the crew of the OceanX OceanXplorer research vessel during an expedition in the Red Sea in late 2020.

A year later, OceanX is revealing more information about the remarkable animal that swam past its remote-vehicle camera as it examined the wreck of the passenger ship Pella at a depth of nearly 2,800 feet (850 meters).

Zoologist and squid expert Mike Vecchione studied the footage and suggested that despite its size, the animal was not an infamous "giant squid" due to its body proportions and shape of its fins. Vecchione identified it as a jumbo example of a purpleback flying squid.

An OceanX video posted on Wednesday shows the fast-moving animal and Vecchione's analysis.

OceanX science program lead Mattie Rodrigue described seeing the squid -- which she estimated was larger than a human being -- for the first time as it swam past the bow of the wreck. "I was frozen in absolute shock," she said.

The researchers spotted either the same squid or others like it during subsequent dives. Vecchione said they represent "the giant form" of the purpleback flying squid.

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OceanX is focused on ocean research, exploration, outreach and protection. The Red Sea mission's goal was to answer the question: "How do species in the Red Sea thrive where others would die?" Researchers discovered large animals, like the squid, as well as sites with climate-change resistant corals.

While the creature Rodrigue observed wasn't a legendary giant squid, it was a stunning and unexpected sight. A true wonder of the deep.