Usually the stuff of myth, the team says they captured the first live images of the animal in the abyss, 2000 feet beneath the waves in the Pacific near the Ogasawara Islands, 600 miles south of Tokyo.

It wasn’t quite the sort of thing you’d have read about in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea – it’s a small one. Just nine feet long.

Little is known about giant squid because its harsh environment makes it difficult for scientists to conduct research. They are usually only spotted and studied once they wash ashore on beaches.

The video was shot last July and was a joint project between Japanese broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel.

“Many people have tried to capture an image of a giant squid alive in its natural habitat, whether researchers or film crews. But they all failed,” Tsunemi Kubodera, a zoologist at Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science, who led the team told the Associated Press.

“I’ve seen a lot of giant squid specimens in my time, but mainly those hauled out of the ocean. This was the first time for me to see with my own eyes a giant squid swimming. It was stunning, I couldn’t have dreamt that it would be so beautiful. It was such a wonderful creature.”

The agency reported that Kubodera was able to lure the giant squid with a three foot long diamond squid.

Giant squid usually avoid lights on the submersibles scientists and film crews use for underwater work.

To get around that this batch of crafty documentary makers used a craft kitted out with lights invisible both to human and giant squid eyes.

NHK will air its video footage on January 13, followed by the Discovery Channel on January 27.

Main image via YouTube/ITN/Discovery Channel