Octopus Encounter

Click here to view the larval forms image catalogue
Click here to view the macromarine image catalogue
Click here to view the macromarine image catalogue
Larval Octopus
Juvenile Octopus
Adult Octopus
© 2000 by Image Quest 3-D
Read our copyright notice

 

We were in Bermuda on a recent filming trip and were based in a ramshackle old house on a very small island that served as a yellow-fever station, a prisoner-of-war camp and a deep-sea research station through its chequered history. The children were those of a colleague working with us.

The day was grey, humid and windless and, with the wet season upon us, there was little hope of the weather improving to the point where we could seriously consider filming. Anyway, nothing of interest was likely to happen on a day as dull as this. Instead, I thought the children might like to see us release the young octopus we had been filming in a specially designed tank. "We'll return the octopus to the sea, kids and you'll see just how well he camouflages himself as he departs."

We set out for the north shore, where the eroded limestone has weathered into a dangerous matrix of knife-edged honeycombs. Young children would be in real danger here, but Peter and Jenny were older and well used to this island habitat that had been home to them on many a filming trip.

As we walked down the casuarina-lined path - bucketed octopus and all - several hundred land crabs scuttled into the undergrowth, their orange pincers held aloft in cautious defence. It dawned on me, as we hopped and sidestepped, that if we could put the octopus into a small, clean pool, the children would get a better chance to witness its consummate ability to change colour to suit its background.

On site, I located a perfect pool. It was a metre or so across, 20cm deep and with not a recess, nook or cranny in sight. The tide would cover the area within an hour, and the octopus would be safe from predation, especially with us around.

As I upended the bucket, I noticed a crack in the floor of the pool, but it was only a millimetre or two in width. Nothing could get into that. As the octopus touched his temporary home, its colour-changing alchemy began and, within a second or two, it had assumed a total hue and pattern that perfectly matched its surroundings. The gasp from the children showed they, too, were impressed. Our 15cm friend slowly traversed the pool. Its movements, like that of all octopods, were as effortless as oil over a metal road. Ten a tip of one tentacle found the narrow crack. That was it. Within 10 seconds its entire head, mantle, siphon and tentacles slithered from view. It was not what I had intended, but it was more impressive than I had expected. But what was to follow would leave this little event cold.

While the kids stayed near the first pool, my wife and I scrambled over a low bluff and found ourselves looking into a large, weed-filled pool with overhangs and a rock-strewn bottom. To one side, a large rock came close to the surface. Some rock - this one was breathing.

Click here to view the macromarine image catalogue
Adult Octopus
© 2000 by Image Quest 3-D
Read our copyright notice

 

There, sitting with its eye turrets almost clear of the water, was a large octopus with what I guessed were metre-long tentacles all bunched up beneath it. As it rhythmically ventilated its gills in a steady and pronounced movement, we speculated on what it was up to. To see if we could elicit a response that might give us a clue, I held out my leg and cast a shadow over it.

The response was electric: four sucker-covered arms whipped upwards and latched onto my sandal-clad foot. My wife laughed out loud. There I was on one leg, with the other firmly anchored to a large octopus a metre out from the edge of a deep pool flanked by razor-sharp limestone. I did the only thing I could. I froze. What seemed a lifetime later, the octopus suddenly released my foot. Only then did I realise the reason. A small octopus had jetted itself out from almost beneath my feet, leaving a copious screen of ink as it fled. Like a thunderbolt, the large octopus jetted off in hot pursuit. Both disappeared beneath the overhang on the far side of the pool. We exchanged expressions of surprise and clambered on over the rocks.

Only minutes later, Jenny screamed. She was out of sight, and she sounded scared. We struggled back over the treacherously eroded rock. As we crested a ledge, we stopped in our tracks. A few metres below us were the children. Peter had his arms around his sister, and both were staring wide-eyed into the large pool we had left five minutes earlier. A bluff of rock ahead of them stopped them from fleeing from an amazing spectacle: approaching at speed across the full width of the pool came the large octopus with two of its eight arms flailing like bullwhips above the water surface. The arms were half a metre clear of the water and it was making straight for Jenny. I shouted to them to freeze. They knew the command and for once were compliant. The octopus arrived at the very rim of the pool, arms extended towards Jenny's bare leg. Suddenly, there was a commotion. From almost beneath the large octopus, the small one jetted away in a cloud of ink. In the same instant, the larger one followed in hot pursuit, depositing its own mucus-bound ink mass in its wake. Both octopods disappeared from view beneath the opposite overhang. Jenny, visibly trembling, let out a gasp of relief. All this and not a camera in sight.

 

This article was written by Peter Parks

 

If you have an article of general interest that you would like considered for the article of the month then we would love to hear from you. If you are also able to supply images then we can include those as well. You can email us at iq3d@imagequest3d.com

Click here to read other articles

Search Images
 

 
Search Articles and Info
 
2001 by Image Quest 3-D
Read our copyright notice
Click here to go to the Stock Photo Library