The Canadian fishing village of Glover’s Harbour, Newfoundland (formerly known as Thimble Tickle) claims to be the “Home of the Giant Squid.” It earned this distinction in 1878, when a living giant squid (Architeuthis dux) was discovered stranded offshore.
According to contemporary documents, on the morning of November 2, 1878, Stephen Sherring, a local fisherman, and two companions were out fishing when they noticed a large, red, tangled object semi-submerged in the surf near the shore. Believing it to be part of a shipwreck, they rowed closer. To their horror, they discovered a partially stranded giant squid or “devil fish.” The creature was frantically flailing its long tentacles in an attempt to dislodge itself and retreat to deeper water. In its distress, the panicked animal periodically ejected clouds of black ink.
Although frightened by the appalling scene, the fisherman rowed even closer, taking care to stay out of range of the squid’s tentacles. Realizing that the creature was stuck, they impaled it with a grappling hook and rope. They tied the other end of the rope to a tree on the shoreline. The rope prevented the squid from going back out to sea with the ebbing tide. Finally, exhausted from its violent efforts to free itself, the squid died as the water receded. The dead squid was ignominiously butchered and used for dog food.
News of the giant squid spread and it became known as the “Thimble Tickle Specimen.” It was reported to be 55 feet (16.8 meters) long. The body measured 20-feet in length, and one tentacle was 35-feet long. Guinness World Records posthumously recognized the squid as a world record holder, and it is still considered the heaviest giant squid ever taken. It also holds the record for the largest animal eye at 15.75-inches in diameter. However, modern speculation is that the measurements were exaggerated or the result of postmortem stretching. There is, however, no doubt it was enormous.
In 2001, a giant squid returned to the shore of Glover’s Harbour in the form of a “life-sized” sculpture. Constructed from concrete over steel and wire mesh, the statue is 55-feet long and weighs over four tons. It was designed and built by Don Foulds, a fine arts teacher, and his students. It’s now part of the Giant Squid Interpretation Site that also includes a small museum, picnic area, and gift shop.
The Thimble Tickle Specimen is the subject of an annual festival, and in 2011, the sculpture was featured on a Canadian postage stamp.