Giant Squid Tentacle

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids

American Museum of Natural History, New York City

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids tracks the origins of fabled creatures such as unicorns, dragons and sea monsters. This traveling exhibit displays models of mythical creatures and the animals that inspired them.

Although the giant squid is an actual creature, it is so terrifying that it has turned into the stuff of legend. For hundreds of years, sailors told tales of the feared kraken. According to mythology, this devil fish was capable of dragging an entire ship down to the depths of the seas. In 1870, Jules Verne cast an unembellished giant squid as a menace in his classic science fiction tale, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: “For some time prior to the opening of our story, ships at sea had been met by an enormous object, a long thing shaped like a spindle and infinitely larger and more rapid in its movements than a whale…” (Chapter 1)

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) originally put a genuine giant squid tentacle on display. When fungus was discovered in the preservation fluid, curators asked Wildlife Preservations to sculpt a replica that would withstand both the rigors of travel and being submerged in liquid. Stephen Quinn, Senior Project Manager in the Exhibitions Department of the AMNH, provided Wildlife Preservations with the original tentacle to use as a reference specimen. Due to the delicate nature of the specimen and its scientific value, the molding of any parts was strictly prohibited. Wildlife Preservations carefully created a series of notes, photographs, and measurements in order to accurately replicate the original. A number of the tentacle’s suckers were painstakingly sculpted from wax. A tiny ring of teeth was then created in brass. These sculpted suckers were then cast in a more resilient material which accurately captured every detail.

The basic form of the tentacle was built in steel and styrofoam. The foam was then covered with an epoxy compound, which was finely sculpted in order to create a more definitive and accurate shape. Next, the casts of the suckers were securely placed on the tentacle. The final steps included painting the model and adding a protective coat to shield the tentacle when immersed in fluid.

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with The Field Museum, Chicago; Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau-Ottawa; Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney; and Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta. 

To see more images of the Giant Squid tentacle, click here

To learn more about this exhibit, click here

© 2009 Wildlife Preservations, LLC.  Site designed by Petra Manis and John Scott Lucas. 
Unless otherwise noted, all photos on this page © American Museum of Natural History