Which giant creature attacked the USS Stein in 1978?

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In 1978, the USS Stein, a 440-foot-long (133.5-meter) U.S. Navy frigate, encountered a mysterious and possibly colossal creature from the deep. The attack caused significant damage to the ship’s sonar dome, raising the question of what kind of giant sea creature could have caused this destruction.

The incident

When the USS Stein returned to its home port after a difficult deployment, the crew discovered that the ship’s radar system, designed to detect underwater threats, had failed. When the frigate was brought into dry dock for repairs, engineers were shocked to find that about 8% of the sonar dome’s NOFOUL rubber coating had been shredded, with large gouges and embedded teeth or claws in the damaged sections.

Investigation and hypothesis

Marine biologist FG Wood was called in to survey the damage. He confirmed that the teeth or claws responsible for the grooves matched the size and shape of the cuts in the sonar dome. This suggested that a large animal had attacked the ship. But what kind of creature could it have been?

Colossal Squid Theory

The Colossal Squid Theory

Wood’s analysis suggested that a huge squid, probably a giant squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni), could be responsible. The giant squid is known to live in the waters around Antarctica, South America, South Africa and southern New Zealand. It is the largest known cephalopod and differs from the giant squid (Architeuthis dux) in its larger body mass and the large hooks on its tentacles. Used for grasping and tearing apart prey.

The largest known giant squid was about ten meters long and weighed 495 kilograms, although estimates suggest that it could grow up to fourteen meters long. However, for the hooks found on the USS Stein to rival the hooks, the squid would have to be much larger – perhaps over forty meters long, making it an exceptional specimen or possibly an unknown species.

Alternative theories

There are documented cases of squid clinging to ships at the surface, possibly nearing the end of their lives. It is conceivable that a dying giant squid mistook the rock for a possible last meal or resting place.

Another possibility is that the squid mistook the USS Stein for a sperm whale, its only known predator. Sperm whales bear similar scars from fights with giant squid, although these confrontations usually occur in deep waters and not near the surface.

If this theory is correct, the squid likely realized its mistake and retreated into the depths, leaving the USS Stein with its battle scars.

Alternative theories


The attack on the USS Stein remains a fascinating maritime mystery. Whether it was a giant squid, an unknown giant species, or simply a case of mistaken identity, the incident sheds light on the mysteries that still lie beneath the ocean’s surface. As we continue to explore and understand the deep sea, such encounters remind us of the vast and often unexplored world that exists in our planet’s oceans.

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