A giant squid with tentacles that stretch 16 feet long washed up on the shores of New Zealand. The massive aquatic animal beached on along South Bay in Kaikoura.

From top to tentacle, the giant creature measures 23 feet long, and the eyes of the creature are 7.5 inches in diameter. The body of the dead creature was placed in a freezer to prevent decay before specimens are sent to various research institutions, including Otago and Auckland universities.

The Kaikoura Marine Center and Aquarium is currently housing the giant squid in a freezer with windows, allowing visitors to view the mammoth marine creature. Officials at that institution identified the creature as a mature female, although they do not know her age, nor how she died.

"The majority of its weight is in the head, which is in pristine condition. There's no indication of how it died — the stomach was full so it wasn't hungry," Megan Lewis of the Kaikoura Marine Center and Aquarium said.

Giant squid were the subjects of legends and lore for centuries, as sailors told stories of massive sea monsters capable of destroying sailing ships. In "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," a novel by Jules Verne, one of the creatures attacks the crew of a troubled submarine. The Kracken — a massive creature so large, parts of its body were mistaken for islands, was the subject of a Scandinavian myth.

In reality, these fearsome-looking marine creatures live in deep waters far from shore, eating fish and other squid, and they present no danger to human beings.

"Before the birds got to it — we got help to move it to the aquarium where it is safe inside a freezer with glass windows so you can see it — on display until we can do more with it," The Kaikoura Marine Center and Aquarium reported on their Facebook page.

During the Age of Whaling, sperm whales were occasionally seen bearing large battle scars, evidence they had tangled with a mighty creature beneath the ocean surface. When dead bodies of giant squids would wash up on shores in years past, they quickly decomposed, leaving little evidence behind of their anatomy or identity. It was not until 2004 that one of these creatures was recorded in the deep for the first time, by zoologists from Japan.

Beak marks seen on the latest specimen hint that the creature may have perished in a deadly battle with another, even larger, giant squid. Mysteries still surround the life cycles and behavior of these creatures, including social structure, reproductive habits and ecology.

The body of the massive squid will be kept frozen at the aquarium for the immediate future, allowing guests at the facility to view the creature, even as specimens are awarded to laboratories.

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