Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth

No legendary sea monster was as terrifing as the Kraken. Its monstrous size often caused it to be mistaken for an island but, when curious mariners drew near, the islands would erupt into a seething mass of multiple heads, horns and waving arms that could grasp and sink even the largest of ships.

Horrified sailors spoke of the Kraken reaching its many arms up as high as the top of the main mast of a sailing ship. The beast would attack a hapless vessel, wrap its arms around the hull and slowly capsize it. Those unfortunate souls who couldn’t escape would be eaten by the monster. It was also said that when the Kraken submerged, it could suck down a vessel by the whirlpool it created.

In ‘The Natural History of Norway’, the 12th century Bishop of Bergen described the Kraken as a floating island measuring one and a half miles across.

It seems these are the creatures’s arms, and, it is said, if they were to lay hold of the largest man-of-war, they would pull it down to the bottom

Probably the first recorded mention of the Kraken is in the Odyssey, when Odysseus has to pass Scylla’s lair.

The Kraken of legend is most likely a giant squid. These cephalods are very aggressive and sometimes rise to the surface where they are seen by modern sailors. Although giant squids are considerably less then a mile and a half across, they’re quite large enough to tackle a sperm whale and, on at least three occasions in the 1930’s, attacked ships crossing the Atlantic.

While the squids got the worst of these encounters with ships fitted with propellors, the fact that they attacked at all shows that it’s possible for these creatures to mistake a vessel for a whale. It’s no wonder early navigators had nightmares about these grisly giants. Imagine if a large squid, perhaps a hundred feet long and weighing two or three tons, attacked a small sailing ship.

So the Kraken is not a legend. To this day he sleeps in ancient grots below the thunders of the upper deep.