Sketches from the field:
I came upon her perched on a rock, legs demurely tucked under her body. She held my gaze, as if she had been expecting me. There was no sign of fear, only curiosity. We watched each other for a few minutes, then she slid off the rock to go hunting. I noticed one of her legs had been wounded and was regenerating. Another was stubbed, as though it had been bitten off. Life has been rough for you, poor girl.
I was swimming in the mariculture project pen, carrying out a nocturnal survey of sea cucumbers when I came across. Octopuses have different personalities, and this one had a bold one.
Off she glided, the other six legs brushing along the coral-strewn floor of the shallow sea pen. One tentacle stretched out in front, as if feeling the way forward, while the others radiated out, exploring under rocks and in crevasses. Periodically, she would pull a tentacle to her mouth. What tasty treat have you found? She moved so quickly I couldn’t identify the delicacy.
I texted our kids in their distant homes, telling them about my experience with the octopus. My daughter christened her Octavia. For the next couple nights, after completing my survey of the sea cucumbers, I’d swim near the rock, flashing my underwater light in the direction of a hole which seemed to be Octavia’s den. I’d float, patient. After a few moments she’d emerge and allow me to follow her as she hunted around the pen.
On the third night she led me toward the pen’s northern wall made of netting. There was a gap I hadn’t noticed before. At the gap she paused, seemed to glance at me, and flashed out into the darkness of the open sea. I never found her in her den after that night.
Since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the octopus. In middle school a friend and I would collect octopus from a nearby cove to keep them in a salt-water aquarium.
Sy Montgomery has written an excellent book about these fascinating creatures: The Soul of an Octopus.
If you need a bit of wonder and amazement in your day, check out Octolab.TV!
With their three hearts, nine brains, blue blood, uncanny brainpower, dexterous tentacles – Octopus are literally alien intelligence here on earth.