Tokyo - After years of searching, scientists and broadcasters say they have captured video images of a giant squid in its natural habitat deep in the ocean for the first time.
The three-meter invertebrate was filmed from a manned submersible during one of 100 dives in the Pacific last summer in a joint expedition by Japanese public broadcaster NHK, Discovery Channel and Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science.
NHK released photographs of the giant squid this week ahead of Sunday's show about the encounter. The Discovery Channel will air its programme on 27 January.
The squid, which was inexplicably missing its two longest tentacles, was spotted in waters east of Chichi Island about 1 000km south of Tokyo, NHK said. The crew followed it to a depth of 900m.
Little is known about the creature because its harsh environment makes it difficult for scientists to conduct research. Specimens have washed ashore on beaches but never before have been filmed in their normal habitat deep in the ocean, researchers say.
Japanese zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera, who was on board the submersible at the time of the encounter, was able to lure the giant squid with a one-meter-long diamond squid.
All the lights from the submersible were turned off while they waited. At a depth of 640m, the giant squid appeared and wrapped its arms around the bait, eating it for over 20 minutes before letting go.
"What we were able to gain from this experience was the moment of the giant squid attacking its prey - we were able record that," said Kubodera, who has been researching the giant squid since 2002.
Other scientists involved in the expedition this summer, which logged 400 hours of dives, were American oceanographer and marine biologists Edith Widder and Steve O'Shea from New Zealand.
NHK said a high-definition camera was developed for the project that could operate deep in the ocean and used a special wavelength of light invisible to the giant squid's sensitive eyes.
Kubodera said scientific research, technology and the right lure all came together to make the encounter possible, and that this case will shed more light on deep-sea creatures going forward.
After more than a decade of going out to sea in search of the giant squid, he relished the moment he came face-to-face with it.
"It appeared only once, out of 100 dives. So perhaps, after over 10 years of some kind of relationship I've built with the giant squids, I feel, perhaps, it was the squid that came to see me."