Held in a custom-made acrylic tank filled with a 10% solution of formol-saline, the giant squid at the center of the London Natural History Museum Spirit Collection was caught off the coast of the Falkland Islands in March of 2004.
The 8.62-meter-long creature is an Architeuthis dux, or giant squid, and known at the museum as “Archie.” Although enormous, the giant squid is not actually the largest of the feared semi-mythical undersea ship eaters – that position of honor is reserved for the colossal squid, or Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.
Rarely seen, and even more rarely caught, this specimen was caught alive, although it did not remain that way for long. After death, it was transported to the Natural History Museum where it was frozen while a tank large enough to accommodate the huge specimen was designed and built.
The Spirit Collection at the London Natural History Museum holds about 22 million preserved zoological specimens, including the original collections of Sir Hans Sloane, an adventurous 18th-century traveler and collector, who also is known for having introduced the drinking of chocolate milk to Europe. His collection alone numbered some 80,000 items. The new Darwin Centre opened in September 2009.
Archie’s final resting spot is a specially built 9-meter-long transparent tank, made by the same people who made tanks for Damien Hirsts’ formaldehyde specimen installations.
China Miéville’s 2011 novel Kraken opens with the seemingly magical theft of Archie.
The Spirit Collection (and Archie) can be visited on special guided behind the scenes tours.
Know Before You Go
The Darwin Center is in the Museum's Orange Zone. It is accessed through the Natural History Museum. Archie can only be seen on the tour of the Spirit Collection. Ticket office and meeting point in the main hall of the museum. Within walking distance of South Kensington station on the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines. Tours are offered 3-4 times per day and should be booked in advance at the information desk in the great hall entrance. Tours are 10 pounds per person.