British Columbia scuba diver Andrea Humphreys’ new acquaintance greeted her more like a long-lost friend, with extended arms, then a full-body hug, and finally a kiss, lip to tentacle.
Humphreys’ “mind-blowing” encounter was with a giant Pacific octopus.
The schoolteacher’s video of the rare moment with the creature, in three-meter-deep water off Campbell River on the of Vancouver Island, has gone viral.
“I’ve been diving for 12 years. I have never had that. It was just mind-blowing, and it was so incredible,” said Humphreys, who has done more than 675 dives around the world but describes her interaction with the octopus as the experience of a lifetime.
On Oct. 15, Humphreys and two other locals were with a fifth diver who had never seen an octopus on a dive.
“So, our goal was to find that person an octopus and we geared up and got in the water. And within three minutes, I found this octopus that was just sitting there, out in the open,” said Humphreys.
Humphreys and her friends tried to give the octopus some space while they snapped photos. She estimated its size at more than three meters, tentacle to tentacle, with a body bigger than a basketball.
But the octopus had other ideas.
It started crawling towards Humphreys’ friend who had never before seen an octopus, then it greeted Humphreys with its body and tentacles fully engulfing her camera.
“Its tentacles were reaching through the camera to feel my face and then at some point, it had crawled on my body, on my hips, and was giving me a hug,” she said.
“And it had tentacles up and around my mouth and it was sucking on my lip, which is the only exposed part of my body,” said Humphreys, who captured the whole interaction on video, complete with her “squeals of excitement.”
She said such close interaction with divers is rare from a giant Pacific octopus, which scientists rank as highly intelligent.
“This was definitely not a normal encounter with the octopus,” said Humphreys.
“Typically, when we find octopuses, they are in their dens, so like hiding in little cracks, crevices, under rocks and open logs. So, to have it sitting out in the open was pretty rare.”
Humphreys said she hopes the story of her encounter raises awareness of the beauty of marine life and the importance of protecting the underwater environment.
She said students in her class found the video and were asking her questions about it, “so, the excitement is definitely there.”
“(I’m) just hoping I can make people, through this video, aware of what lives under the sea and how our effects can be so harmful.”
Humphreys said she looks forward to revisiting the same diving site, hoping to find the octopus again to renew their acquaintance.
— By Nono Shen in Vancouver
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press