Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Little Octopus

Too many times divers miss some of the coolest experiences because they don't take the time to look carefully at what they're swimming over, and I'm sure I miss as much as anybody. Occasionally I do get lucky though and stumble across things that I have a great time observing. Such was the case on my dive with Bev and Greg Sunday afternoon. We had been photographing nudibranchs, but then I decided to cruise over toward the left wall and see what else might be in there that day. That's when I saw what is in this picture, did you see it right away? Actually there wasn't that much of him showing when I first saw him, only his eyeballs were sticking up out of the hole. It's a little octopus, and he was masterful at blending in with his surroundings. I motioned Greg & Bev over and let them both see him and take a few pictures.

The one thing about octopus is if they feel you are too close or they're being watched, they won't come out of their hole. You have to give them some breathing room, and let them relax. Then as they start to feel comfortable, you'll catch them coming up out of their holes like this guy did in this picture. I spent over 40 minutes with this octopus, just watching and waiting for the shot, or shots I wanted. Patience and persistance paid off as he came out and started jumping from one hole to the next.This is the same octopus in all these pictures, but you can see the way he looks vastly different from one picture to the next. That is his attempt to camouflage himself and hide from any predator, or picture taking diver. This is one of the main reasons I dive with such a big tank. When you find something cool, sometimes you have to spend a lot of time just sitting there watching and waiting for just the right shot. Not only do these masters of disguise have the ability to change colors at will to blend in with their surroundings, but they can also change the texture of their skin. They can go from completely smooth, to having what looks like little thorns covering them. Other animals aren't sure whether those protrusions are full of poison or what is up with them, so they think twice before bothering them. And then when all else fails, there is always the old ink trick. The octopus has one more weapon in his arsenal of self defense tactics, he can shoot a cloud of ink in the water, obscuring the visibility for whatever might be after him. And when the elusive octopus feels trapped and he doesn't have a hole to duck into, he can mold himself to the rocks like this and blend right in. Once you learn what to look for and how to identify them, you'll be amazed how many octopus there are out there, but if you don't know what you're looking for, you probably won't see any. I hope you enjoyed the octopus as much as I enjoyed spending time with him.