To The Octopus I Chanced Upon One Early Winter’s Eve

Nothing quite like hanging out with the locals down under (literally)
Nothing quite like hanging out with the locals down under (literally)

As if I needed another excuse to travel, in 1999 I became a certified scuba diver. All of a sudden there it was—another world to explore. In my enthusiasm I subscribed to a few glossy dive magazines, and soon noticed that nearly all the locales featured within with crystal waters and thriving reefs were places I had yet to visit.


Challenge accepted.


This spurred a several-year quest to visit the best places to dive, and introduced me to the thrill of underwater animal encounters both great and small. And though I’ve dived with sharks (lots of them), sea snakes, barracuda, and other menacing denizens of the deep, my favorite encounter was not with a fierce creature at all—just a multi-limbed one.


I was several days into a liveaboard trip (a.k.a. dive boat where you live onboard and dive remote sites) in the Bahamas, when on a night dive, my beam came across a juvenile octopus propelling itself in that signature way that only octopuses (octopi?) can. Immediately changing my vector, I headed right towards it, watching it transform from a shimmering blue-green color to a mottled orange, as it tried to camouflage itself on the reef. While I’d like to flatter myself and say it was putting on a show just for me, in reality I probably scared it half to death, and it was just trying to get away.


I was mesmerized. Sure, I’d seen them on TV documentaries and in National Geographic, but somehow it just doesn’t prepare you for the graceful movement and instantaneous transformation that played out in front of me. I was overjoyed, and spent nearly the rest of my remaining air hovering above it and hoping it would vacate the crevice it had wedged itself into and give me an encore performance.


Upon returning to the surface, I raved to all about the striking features of the creature I just witnessed, claiming it was the second-most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen—the first being my wife. Oddly, when I later told her that, she didn’t seem at all flattered. Apparently females have enough competition and do not need any more from cephalopods. When she voiced her displeasure, all I could say was, “You didn’t see that octopus.”


Sadly, I have no photographs or video to preserve my memory of that encounter. I cannot help but wonder what this octopus that touched me so deeply is doing now. I wonder if he (or she) is still alive, rambling across reefs and dodging other divers hoping to catch a glimpse of its beauty. And I wonder what might have been if our time together was longer, and not governed by petty nuisances like air and nitrogen absorption. Wherever it ended up, it will forever be in my mind, my heart, and with this post, the Internet. Never forget…


Has anyone had a special/amazing/amusing underwater animal encounter? Leave a comment and share it with us all.