Close encounter with a giant octopus

Thursday 26 February 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT HARDY – A scuba diver on the Pacific north coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island got up close and personal with a giant Pacific octopus on Sunday.

The encounter between Natasha Dickinson and the octopus was caught on camera by her diving partner Jackie Hildering, a biologist and marine educator.

“We, as divers, are so fortunate to come across giant Pacific octopuses in their world where they are invertebrate royalty. We are able to meet them on their turf, and thereby know how inquisitive and intelligent they are. We know they are mighty, highly adaptable predators.

“I had been taking photographs of Lingcod males guarding their egg masses and noted that my dive buddy Natasha Dickinson was signalling me with her light, indicating that she had found something of particular interest.

“I took a few more shots and then swam towards her and found my dive buddy with a giant Pacific octopus completely covering her face.

“Natasha is an incredibly skilled and experienced diver with a deep respect for marine life. She was clearly not afraid, nor was the octopus.

The first thing Hildering did was to make sure that both her diving companion Natasha Dickinson and the octopus weren’t in any discomfort.

“Right away I got a sense of how relaxed the big octopus hug was,” she said.

“My whole reason for writing the blog and sharing the pictures was to dispel the idea that they’re somehow a monstrous creature.”

Hildering says octopuses have a bad reputation and are often vilified in popular culture. But her experiences as a marine biologist and a diver have shown otherwise.

“We divers know just how intelligent, inquisitive and remarkable these animals are,” she said. “These sorts of exchanges are usually very respectful.”

She says the only times she’s seen octopus act defensively is when a diver has done something to provoke them or if they’re overly habituated to humans.

“Octopus don’t suddenly come out and jump you,” Hildering said.