Enormous Deep-Sea Squid Washes Up on Beach in 'Once in a Lifetime' Sighting

A tourist group stumbled across the carcass of a huge squid on a beach, in a rare sighting.

The squid was spotted on a Farewell Spit Tours trip along Farewell Spit in Golden Bay, New Zealand. Tour guide Anton Donaldson was texted by a colleague that something exciting was awaiting him and the group as he drove the tour bus along the beach.

When they got there, they found the 13-foot creature lying on the sand.

sunset squid
A file photo of a giant squid lying on the beach after it washed ashore on January 19, 2005, in Newport Beach, California. Another giant squid was found on a beach in New Zealand by a tour group. David McNew/Getty Images

"I announced it to the passengers and we all got out to take a look. They were full of excitement," Donaldson told the New Zealand Herald.

"For most people it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or not even a once-in-a-lifetime. It's not a common find on any beach so if you're able to be there at the right time, because things that wash up on the beach, organic material doesn't last on the beach."

According to Donaldson, the creature was a giant squid, and measured nearly 13 feet. Giant squid are the second-largest mollusc, behind only the colossal squid, and can grow to lengths of up to 43 feet long. They are thought to be found across the globe, due to the distribution of where bodies have washed up, however they are very rarely seen alive, and are usually only found in the ocean at depths of about 1,000 to 3,300 feet.

The elusive species hadn't been photographed alive until 2005, and was only captured on film in 2006, off the Ogasawara Islands in Japan. There have only been 677 known giant squid sightings ever, according to the Two Oceans Aquarium in South Africa.

"The tentacles on it were chewed back," said Donaldson. "It looked like they had been chewed back by some other sea creatures such as small sharks or fish. While I don't know for sure, I imagine it had been floating out there for a period of time and had washed up."

The giant squid possesses the largest eyes of any animal, which are the same size as the average dinner plate, at a whopping 10 inches in diameter, according to National Geographic. It's thought that these giant eyes evolved to aid the squid in catching scraps of bioluminescent light from prey in the dark waters below 1,000 feet.

Giant squid are thought to be the common prey of sperm whales, and are also often found within the stomachs of pilot whales, southern sleeper sharks and occasionally killer whales. They are also eaten by other giant squid.

"When it's something a bit different it's a special thing to experience. But at the same time there was some sadness about a creature like that. A magnificent example of a large sea creature that lives at the bottom of the ocean unfortunately on the beach, not alive anymore," Donaldson said.