October 25, 1873
On 25 October 1873 a fisherman, Theophilus Picot fishing off Bell Island in Conception Bay, had a battle with a giant squid. This battle resulted in the first giant squid specimen to be studied scientifically on land!
It was Alexander Murray, the first Director of the Geological Survey of Newfoundland who brought the story to the attention of the international scientific community.
A few weeks following the fisherman’s battle with the giant squid Mr. Murray, wrote to Louis Agassiz, Professor of Zoology at Harvard University. In the letter he explained that the fisherman Picot
” struck at it (the squid, at the time he had no idea what it was) with an oar or boat-hook, whereupon the creature’s fury seemed to be aroused, and it struck at the bottom of the boat with its beak, and immediately afterward threw its monstrous tentacles over the boat, which probably it might have dragged to the bottom had not Picot with great presence of mind severed one of the tentacles with his axe.”
Mr. Murray had more than a story he also included:
“a couple of photographs of the said tentacle and a few of the small denticulated sucking cups.”
The reference to the battle with the giant squid first appeared the prestigious publication scientific journal ‘The American Naturalist’ 8 (1874), 120-124. under the tile “Capture of a Gigantic Squid at Newfoundland.”
This was the first of the giant squid to be documented. Over the years their have been others. At the Rooms Provincial Museum a giant squid that was originally caught November 14, 1981 in Hare Bay, Bonavista Bay, is on display. The last giant squid caught in Newfoundland waters was in Triton in 2004 and there was another found in Sandy Cove, Fogo Island, in 1982.
On July 7, 2011 Canada Post launched the Glovers Harbour Squid stamp which features a 55-foot (16.8 metre) giant squid statue from Glovers Harbour. It is a life-size replica of the World’s Largest Giant Squid (Guinness Book record) that was landed nearby on November 2, 1878.
Recommended Reading: Aldrich, F. A., and Brown, E. L. 1967. “The Giant Squid in Newfoundland,” The Newfoundland Quarterly. Vol. LXV No. 3. p. 4-8.
Recommended Archival Collection: Search the online database at The Rooms for descriptions of our archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections
Recommended Exhibit: At the Rooms see the exhibit “Beneath the Sea” this exhibit features a 29-foot-long giant squid, which was found by a fisherman in Hare Bay, Nov 10, 1981.