Giant squids are elusive, mysterious creatures that have starred in more than a few pirate legends for their size (up to 59 feet!) and diet (small freakin’ whales!). So you can imagine having one try to steal your paddle board — while you’re still riding it — would feel a little too 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for most people’s comfort. Which probably makes James Taylor, the almost-victim of nautical robbery, the chillest dude on the planet.
Taylor recently shared a video taken back in March to Instagram, chronicling a run-in with an injured giant squid in the waters of Melkbosstrand, a coastal village about 20 miles north of Cape Town. In the video, you can see the giant squid wrapping its tentacles around Taylor’s board as he ties a rope around it to drag the big lug to shore. Normally, an encounter with a giant squid wouldn’t materialize so easily with close contact, but this particular giant squid happened to be injured and was unable to swim away.
Taylor, in a Facebook comment on his profile explaining the encounter, made clear that he made the decision to wrangle the squid onto shore after he saw that it was lethargic, covered in bite marks, and missing some of its tentacles. “I wanted to try get it to the beach for research purposes before it got more damaged by seals in the area,” his comment reads. “It was quite badly injured and barely alive when I caught it. It didn’t even really try and get away, so we ended up putting it out of its misery when we got to the beach. It felt like the best thing to do at the time.”
Upon bringing the squid to shore, and, having been unable to reach anyone at the waterfront aquarium to pick up the animal, Taylor and company dissected the body and photographed the findings in case researchers wanted them for study. This has been a controversial detail in the aftermath of the video being published, bringing criticism from animal rights and environmental activists, but Taylor stands by his actions, saying staff at the aquarium sent the videos Taylor took to a professor “who has been studying giant squid in South Africa for the last 15 years, and he was very excited about the find.”
After hearing back from scientists, it turns out the specimen was indeed a true giant squid. In hindsight, Taylor realized how fortunate he was not to meet a fully healthy squid in its natural deep-sea habitat. The paddle boarder shared another video from Animal Planet to his Facebook page, showing a diver being mauled by the giant squid’s cousin — the Humboldt squid — captioning his post, “After seeing this, I am very glad the one we found was almost dead!”