Friday, January 27, 2006

Giant Octopus Attacks Submarine!

...well, sort of.

From the Victoria, B.C., Times-Colonist:
A giant Pacific octopus that attacked a remotely operated submarine off north Vancouver Island could have been senile or maybe just peckish, a marine biologist said Wednesday.

"Large male octopuses in the last part of their lives become senescent, or senile," said Jim Cosgrove of the Royal B.C. Museum. "They get to be like humans, doddering old fools that have inappropriate behaviours such as being out in the daytime," said Cosgrove, an expert in octopus behaviour.

The attack occurred Nov. 18, 2005, off Brooks Peninsula, on the northwest coast of the Island.

The submarine was 55 metres deep and Mike Wood was on a boat on the surface, guiding the submarine along the ocean floor looking for electronic receivers that detect salmon.

"I had the ROV [remote operated vehicle] with its manipulator claw attached on a ground rope. It took me two hours to find this particular receiver. The octopus came from the receiver direction about 30 to 50 feet."

The octopus anchored three tentacles on the same cable the vehicle was holding onto "and a fourth tentacle shot forward very fast and wrapped around my manipulator claw."
Wood immediately threw the sub into reverse and blasted the octopus with sand and debris from the ocean floor. The sub has about 50 kilograms of thrust "so it's quite powerful," Wood said.

In a video recording, the octopus whips its tentacles around as it tries to deal with the sub's counterattack.

"Eventually it releases the vehicle and it gets blasted off into the distance," said Wood.

The octopus was not injured, he said.

"It's unusual for something like this to happen, a giant Pacific octopus attacking an underwater robot," said Wood, suggesting this is probably the first time it has been recorded.
Paging Captain Nemo...

Cool. There's so much about the ocean we still don't know. Speaking of
Pacific Giant Octopuses, they're pretty common in the Puget Sound - San Juan Isands area. The rocky seabed is an ideal environment for them. Their range extends from central California all the way into Alaska - the Monterey Bay Aquarium is among several aquariums that have specimens.

Video footage of the elusive
Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus remains elusive, however.

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