In November 2007 some two kilometres (1.2 miles) beneath the sea at the Perdido project in the Gulf of Mexico, the camera on an underwater, remotely-operated robot captured a glimpse of a big-fin squid for the first time.

“It looked like one of the aliens from the movie Independence Day,” said Shell Senior Operations Coordinator Patrick Desrouleaux when he first saw the images. “The creature did not seem spooked or alarmed in any way.”

The robot’s operators on the surface were retrieving drilling equipment from the seabed when they saw the creature with its mass of bent tendrils and a large undulating fin hovering near the well.

Dr Michael Vecchione, the laboratory director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, identified the squid as belonging to the Magnapinnidae species.

“That such a substantial animal is common in the world’s ecosystem, and yet had not previously been captured or observed is an indication of how little is known about life in the deep ocean,” he says.

“Every time we get a video observation like this one, it adds another piece to the puzzle. If we can determine exactly how big it is, that will be important information.” Judging from the footage, its eight arms and two tentacles were about 5-10 metres (16-33 feet) long.

At Shell’s Great White field in the Perdido area of the Gulf of Mexico, an underwater robot encountered a Greenland sleeper shark at 2,600 metres (8,530 feet) below the sea. This species was previously thought to live at ocean depths less than about 2,000 metres (6,562 feet). The footage, taken in October 2001, shows the shark as it slowly swims near a wellhead on the seabed before it disappears into the dark.

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