Newsletter : The Kraken Wakes
In July 2012, scientists on a six-week mission to the Ogasawara islands managed to film a giant squid under water - the first time that the creature had been observed in its natural habitat. Although the specimen was 'only' three-meters long, the giant squid can grow up to 10 meters long. Many of the newspaper articles that announced the successful filming were filed under the headline "The Kraken Wakes." This just happens to be the title of a science fiction novel by John Wyndham - one of my favorite sci-fi authors. The novel describes the invasion of Earth by aliens from an unknown planet. The story is told through the eyes of two journalists, Mike and Phyllis Watson. In the first stage of the invasion, objects from outer space fall into the oceans. It soon becomes obvious that the objects only ever fall into deep parts of the ocean, and never on land. People gradually realize that this implies planning by some alien intelligence.
Scientists speculate that the aliens must come from a gas giant, a planet where life survives under conditions of extreme pressures. The deepest parts of the oceans are the only parts of Earth that are useful to the aliens. They have no need of the shallower parts of the seas, or dry land. The aliens make no contact with humans and in theory the two species could have co-existed. However, governments around the world feel threatened by the visitors. They are also troubled by underwater work as the newcomers adapt the oceans to their needs. A small British submersible diving bell is sent down to investigate, but is destroyed by the aliens. The British respond by exploding a nuclear device in the area. The Americans also try to bomb the aliens but are equally unsuccessful.
Phase two of the story starts with ships all over the globe being attacked by unknown weapons and sinking rapidly. This is followed by attacks on land from tanks that leave the oceans to capture humans from seaside towns and villages. Phyllis and Mike narrowly escape from one of these attacks, but it is never clear what the aliens do with the captured humans. Various armies around the world fight back against the sea tanks and this then leads to the final phase: the aliens begin to melt the polar ice caps, causing sea levels around the world to rise. London and other major ports are flooded and chaos occurs around the world. The Watsons continue to report on the story for the radio, but eventually they escape from flooded London. At the end of the book, scientists in Japan develop an underwater ultrasonic weapon that kills the aliens. However, the global population has dropped to about 20% of pre-invasion levels. Moreover, the world's climate has been permanently changed. You never actually meet the aliens in Wyndham's book. I like the understated 'menace' of these aliens who are never described. This is in contrast to an equally famous science fiction book, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, in which the aliens from Mars are aggressive tripod fighting machines that emerge from spacecraft to attack humans around the world. I recommend any of John Wyndham's books - and there are many - but particularly Day of the Triffids which is also spine-chilling.
You may be wondering how John Wyndham came up with the name, The Kraken Wakes. The title is actually a reference to a poem, The Kraken, by Alfred Tennyson. The poem draws on the Scandinavian legend of a gigantic sea-monster that preyed upon boats off the coast of Norway. The monster could drag even the largest ships to the sea bottom because, when submerging, it created a powerful whirlpool, known as the Skagarag. Here is the The Kraken, written in 1830:
Below the thunders of the upper deep, [In the deep waters of the oceans]
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea, [far below the noisy waves]
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep [the Kraken sleeps uninterrupted and without dreaming]
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee [the Kraken sleeps in the weak light]
About his shadowy sides; above him swell [growing on him are ancient, tall sponges]
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light, [And stretching up towards the surface]
From many a wondrous grot  and
secret cell [growing from mysterious
Unnumber'd and enormous polypi  [are countless, large polyps)]
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green. [whose giant arms wave in the green water]
There hath he lain for ages , and will lie [The immense monster has rested here for many years]
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep, [feeding from giant worms while he sleeps]
Until the latter fire  shall heat the deep; [until the deep waters are heated by the fires marking the end of the world.]
Then once by man and angels  to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die. 
[Then will the monster rise from the seabed to the surface, making a terrible noise. After displaying its enormous strength, the fragile monster will quickly die. ]
 grot is an ancient word for cave. It is used here to give a sense of mystery. This is reinforced by 'secret cell', meaning hidden place.
 polyps are ocean invertebrates, resembling sea anemones. The poem uses the image of the giant polyps growing on the monster to suggest the immense size of the Kraken
 The Kraken's origins and its reason for sleep are not explained. There is however, a sense of godlike power within the creature.
 'latter fire' and 'angels' are references to the Bible to indicate the end of the world
 the creature is doomed to die when the end of the world occurs.