While many of the creatures thought to have inspired such myths have turned out to be shy and harmless, one such creature, the jumbo, or Humboldt, squid, has a reputation so fearsome that it still instills terror in modern mariners, earning it the nickname “red devil.”
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updated 10/28/2003 6:17:42 PM ET 2003-10-28T23:17:42

Hot on the trail of the enigmatic and elusive jumbo, or Humboldt, squid, a real-life leviathan with a bloodthirsty reputation, National Geographic Ultimate Explorer correspondent Mireya Mayor heads to sea with two experts who are working to uncover the secrets of these amazing giants. Airs Sunday, Oct. 26, 9 p.m. ET

Through the ages, seafaring men have told tales of the terrible and mysterious creatures that lurk below the ocean’s surface. While many of the creatures thought to have inspired such myths have turned out to be shy and harmless, one such creature, the jumbo, or Humboldt, squid, has a reputation so fearsome that it still instills terror in modern mariners, earning it the nickname “red devil.”

Jumbo squid are aggressive predators that can reach six feet long and are equipped with powerful arms and tentacles, excellent underwater vision and a razor-sharp beak that easily tears through the flesh of their prey. They can also rapidly change their skin color in what appears to be a complex communication system that, like much of these elusive creatures’ natural history, remains a mystery to scientists. Since these squid don’t survive more than a few days in captivity and are difficult to track and observe in the wild, scientists researching them have only recently begun to learn about their behavior and natural history.

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer correspondent Mireya Mayor joins biologist Dr. William Gilly and cameraman Bob Cranston as they pursue the jumbo squid on its own turf. Gilly, a California-based neurobiologist who has studied the behavior and biology of squid for more than two decades, is tagging jumbo squid in the Gulf of California as part of a larger study of their movements in the Pacific Ocean. Cranston, known for his revolutionary underwater camerawork, has spent more time than anyone else in the world at depth with the creatures and hopes to get up close and personal with them 200 feet below the ocean surface. Now, these two experts have joined forces in a groundbreaking effort to observe and document the jumbo squid in the wild.

Ultimate Explorer heads to sea with Gilly, Cranston and Mayor on a quest to uncover the secrets of the red devil.

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