WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ It is one of the world's most elusive creatures. But scientists trolling 1,400 feet under the ocean have caught a rare giant squid _ 26 feet long and weighing nearly a ton _ in waters east of New Zealand.

Marine scientist Steve O'Shea, of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said today that the female squid is one of only 20 of this size known to have been caught anywhere in the world during the past decade.

It has tentacles that stretch 13 feet, a 7-foot-long body and a head nearly 6 feet long.

O'Shea said a research ship netted the squid near the Chatham Islands, 600 miles east of New Zealand, on Dec. 31.

Scientists on board put the squid in the ship's freezer where it remained until the vessel returned to Wellington this week.

O'Shea said the United States-based National Geographic Society will use a submersible later this year to find and photograph giant squids in their natural ocean habitat.

``The reason so few are caught is that they're so mobile. They simply swim away from trawl nets,'' he said.