In the early days of modern sail and exploration, when sailors headed west over the horizon, they really had no idea where they might be going or what they might find during their voyage. We are talking about back in the days when most folks still thought the world was flat and considered such sea voyages foolhardy. If those Asia-seeking explorers didn’t fall off the edge of the earth, well then, they were just as likely to be attacked by one malevolent sea creature or another.
Such thinking might strike us as rather ludicrous today, but back when those early explorers left their ports, the European continent was still in the process of extricating itself from the Dark Ages. The Age of Reason had not yet arrived, superstition reigned supreme and imaginations ran wild. When sailors failed to return from their voyages, as often tended to happen, the folks back home didn’t think to lay the blame on possible storms, scurvy, plague, leaky boats, or just plain getting lost. Nope! falling off the edge of the earth or getting eaten by some horrifying sea creature seemed much more plausible.
Thank God, for the Enlightenment, eh?
But who’s to say such sea creatures don’t exist? In fact, given that mankind has explored less than 5 percent of the world’s oceans, for all we know there could be monstrosities down in the depths that make that fearsome Kraken look like a tadpole. While we kind of doubt it, being divers we know firsthand that there is some super freaky sea life in the ocean, and quite possibly, some Kraken.
But what is a Kraken, anyway?
A Giant octopus? Giant Squid? A really good drink?
Now we’ll bet five-to-one that more than half of you will answer along the lines that it is a gargantuan sea creature, with or without tentacles, which evolved from Greek mythology. And your feelings about whether it is tentacled or not rely primarily on which version of the movie “Clash of the Titans” you might be more familiar with. But, no matter which version—whether 1981 or the 2010 remake—“Release the Kraken,” proved the signature line in both, followed by the arrival of the signature sea creature, which has misled so many people into believing that the (perhaps) mythological Kraken was first described by the Ancient Greeks.
While Greek mythology does have a giant sea monster, it was called “Cetus” and was described more like a giant whale or shark than it was the “Kraken” renditions we are familiar with. We guess “Release the Cetus” just didn’t convey the level of dread sought by the movies’ producers.
Our Kraken, the multi-tentacled one we are familiar with, evolved from Norse mythology. That is, the Vikings. And who better to have run-ins with giant sea creatures than those nautical masters of the Dark Ages? Not only could they explore and sail circles around sailors like Columbus who followed them some 500 years later, but they weren’t known for backing down from a fight either.
Interestingly, though, none of the Norse sagas describe actual fights between Vikings and Kraken, but more just describe the giant monsters and noted how the fishing always tended to be good when Kraken were spotted. As for the description, forget the tentacles because the Norse described the Kraken as being more “crab-like,” than anything resembling a squid or octopus.
The evolution of the crab-like Norse Kraken into the more modern squid- or octopus-like version with which we are familiar probably arose in part because the German word Krake means “octopus,” and sailors reported numerous sightings of giant squid in the 1700s. And while there have never been any substantiated reports of any such creature attacking a ship or taking a sailor’s life, the Kraken remained larger than life in maritime folklore and superstition up until modern times.
Modern marine scientists today are inclined to believe that any Kraken sightings as described by sailors since the 1500s were likely sightings of the giant or colossal squid, which are believed to grow up to 46 feet in length and are reportedly a favorite food of sperm whales.
Which begs the question, you want to ask, as to why Getting Nauti’s Kraken looks more like an octopus than a squid?
Well, as you already know, we here at Getting Nauti have a special affinity for the octopus. And if you read our blog you know that the Octopus is one of the smartest creatures in the sea. If you also consider that the actual existence of the giant squid has only been documented in modern times, who is to say that giant versions of our common octopus don’t exist?
Think about it: super smart, expert at camouflage, and able to squeeze itself into narrow spaces one-tenth its size…. If the far stupider giant squid was able to remain elusive for so long, perhaps the gargantuan octopus has managed to remain hidden from human eyes, and may be responsible for a few of the ships and pleasure craft that tend to go missing each year.
If so, then it certainly deserves a name like “The Kraken.”