What Massive Creature Attacked The USS Stein In 1978?

What Massive Creature Attacked The USS Stein In 1978

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In 1978, the USS Stein, a 133.5-meter-long U.S. Navy frigate, encountered a mysterious and potentially colossal creature from the deep. The attack left the ship’s sonar dome significantly damaged, sparking questions about what kind of massive marine animal could have caused such destruction.

The Incident

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

Investigation and Hypothesis

Marine biologist F.G. Wood was brought in to examine the damage. He confirmed that the teeth or claws responsible for the gouges matched the size and shape of the cuts on the sonar dome. This indicated that a large animal had attacked the vessel. But what kind of creature could it have been?

Colossal Squid Theory

The Colossal Squid Theory

Wood’s analysis suggested that a massive squid, likely a colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni), might be responsible. Known to inhabit the waters around Antarctica, South America, South Africa, and southern New Zealand, the colossal squid is the largest known cephalopod, distinct from the giant squid (Architeuthis dux) due to its greater body mass and large hooks on its tentacles, used to grasp and tear prey.

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The largest recorded colossal squid measured about ten meters long and weighed 495 kilograms, though estimates suggest they could grow up to fourteen meters. However, for the hooks found on the USS Stein to match, the squid would need to be much larger—perhaps over forty meters long, making it an exceptional specimen or possibly an unknown species.

Alternative Theories

There are documented instances of squids latching onto ships at the surface, possibly nearing the end of their lives. It’s conceivable that a dying giant squid mistook the Stein for a potential last meal or a resting place.

Another possibility is that the squid confused the USS Stein with a sperm whale, its only known predator. Sperm whales bear similar scars from battles with giant squids, though these confrontations typically occur in deep waters, not near the surface.

If this theory holds, the squid likely realized its mistake and retreated back 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 colossal squid, an unknown giant species, or simply a case of mistaken identity, the incident highlights 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 uncharted world that exists within our planet’s oceans.

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