Video: New Year’s visit with an octopus in West Seattle waters

We’ve shown you the New Year’s Polar Bear Swim … call this one the New Year’s Octopus Swim, shared by diver/underwater photographer Laura James, from Cove 2 at Seacrest:

New Years Day Dive! from Laura James on Vimeo.

SIDE NOTE: After reviewing the video, we asked Laura about its start, in which she touches the octopus’s suction cups; she explains that it’s a way to both gauge where an octopus is in its lifecycle, and to offer “kind of a ‘hello’ but allowing it to check me out since much of their sensory input comes from suction cups. I find that if they are not OK, they retract into the den. This one seemed more curious than upset, based on color pattern. It was getting rather annoyed by paparazzi by the end of the shoot, and solved the dissatisfaction by throwing a fish at me (the cloud of silt near the end) and going back into the den!”

22 Replies to "Video: New Year's visit with an octopus in West Seattle waters"

  • JanS January 2, 2012 (12:44 pm)

    fascinating…like a beautiful dance..

  • k January 2, 2012 (1:01 pm)

    Love this!! Thank you for sharing Laura and WSB!

  • moji January 2, 2012 (1:27 pm)

    Thank you so much — that’s so beautiful!!

  • enviromaven January 2, 2012 (1:46 pm)

    Beyond cool….fabulous video!

  • Lachlan January 2, 2012 (2:50 pm)

    Excellent video with a great soundtrack. :-)

  • Valerie January 2, 2012 (2:52 pm)

    What a fascinating creature. Great video – thanks for sharing it!

  • Lola P January 2, 2012 (3:53 pm)

    I know how I’d react if someone came into my bedroom and shone a light in my eyes. Other than being annoyed, I’d have a migraine for at least a day. Not to over-anthropomorphize, but how does the artificial light impact our undersea neighbors? Just curious.

  • DiverLaura January 2, 2012 (4:12 pm)


    I agree that shining bright lights directly on the marine life is less than ideal, and i encourage divers to cover most of their light when visiting the dens, letting slivers of light slip between their fingers to illuminate their UW friend…

    That said, i also feel that it is very important to share the beauty of the UW world with folks who are not so fortunate to be able to visit it themselves. So it is kind of a catch 22. I guess i kind of justify the obnoxious paparazzi effect with the thought that at most i’m there for 5 or 10 min max (this encounter was just under 5 min)

    This Octo was likely on its way out hunting when we found it and kind of ducked under a ledge as opposed to being socked in snoozing (which makes for hard to shoot and boring video) ;) They spend a fair bit of their time in the evening on the prowl, looking for food, roaming around cove 2, and it not unusual for divers to see them out and about this time of year. They are quite transient and i’ve been told they can cover a reasonable amount of territory. They have ‘known’ dens (Octo hotels? i wonder if the rockfish charge by the hour..) where they hunker down come daybreak. When we dive out here, sometimes we find every den full, sometimes with more than one octo (so like 12 + octo’s on one dive just in the easy to find dens) and sometimes they are all out and about leaving every den empty….

    Part the wonder of it all is that you never know what you are going to get on any given dive… it may be the same site, but the dives are always unique :)

    If folks want to learn more about these unbelievable, amazing creatures here are a couple links, one of them a book by a local gentleman named Roland Anderson…

  • Kate K January 2, 2012 (5:48 pm)

    Really enjoy these videos. Not a diver, I always wondered what was going down below. It’s an Octopus’ garden!

  • smokeycretin9 January 2, 2012 (5:58 pm)


  • Vanessa January 2, 2012 (7:50 pm)

    Dear Smokey, your comment was worth logging on for..

    Good ONE>

  • AJP January 2, 2012 (8:01 pm)

    Absolutely gorgeous!!!!

  • Lola P January 2, 2012 (8:40 pm)

    Laura: Thanks for the response. I love the videos.

  • Jasperblu January 3, 2012 (5:46 am)

    Wow! That was so very cool to watch. Thank you!

  • Loco in W.S. January 3, 2012 (5:57 am)

    Jacque Cousteau did a T.V. special way back in the 70’s, if my memory is correct, on the tenacle creatures. Puget Sound has some of the largest, if not the largest, octupi in the world. Pretty cool. There use to be a aquaculture set up at the end of pier 70 for the eight legged guys. Just some past history for you people.

  • seewhatsealionsstart January 3, 2012 (8:39 am)

    Laura-I appreciate you have perspective that your behavior is paparazzi-like to the octopus. I believe we do not need to become accustom to seeing an octopus (or any other marine life) disturbed in order to appreciate beauty and life under water. It may not have been as flashy, but just seeing the octopus being itself is enough. I’m not a diver, and you have the experience, but I find it interesting when you say it was “curious” when it looked to me to as if it was trying to escape the light and disturbance from the start. I know it would take a huge shift in human perspective, to just let wild animals be wild w/out even that level of disturbance for our pleasure, but I’d like to think that shift is possible.

  • bridge to somewhere January 3, 2012 (8:49 am)

    @seewhatsealionsstart: I strongly believe videos like these do a lot of good in the long run at helping to save and protect Puget Sound sea life. I think people in Seattle have mostly lost touch with the Sound and its sea life. The work Laura and others are doing to help people understand their impact on the Sound–via combined sewage overflows, street drainage, etc–helps us reconnect to that environment, and may even help us adjust our behaviors to the betterment of aquatic life like this octopus. When I saw these videos on WSB the first time I thought, “Oh ya, there’s a vibrant community in the Sound–I wonder what I can do to help it along?” In retrospect I knew there was aquatic life down there of course, but it was so far removed from my daily life that I didn’t ever think about it. These videos bring that life into my day and thoughts. Perhaps I’m the only one who has had our undersea friends raised to his consciousness via these videos, but I suspect I’m not. There’s value in that. And if it means annoying a single octopus for 10 minutes, I think that’s a pretty good tradeoff for his/her overall future.

  • seewhatsealionsstart January 3, 2012 (9:11 am)

    bridge-I agree that video and a certain level of exposure is necessary given our human need to know or see in order to act. That said, a plethora of video already exists of our Giant Pacific octopus as well as years of research. I understand that each generation needs to be reminded of the importance of preservation, and that visuals aid in education, but how many 10 minutes does that octopus need to experience? There are hundreds of divers that frequent these area’s on a regular basis, albeit not all with camera’s and lighting. So if it was just her, yes I’d have no hesitations about the educational benefit. Not trying to target Laura, just would like people thinking of other pieces of the educational/preservation picture. That piece being the acclimatized need to see “more” in order to respect.

  • LH January 3, 2012 (12:48 pm)

    I am going to point out that the cephalopod research community is unaware of the following facts, apparently discovered, but not yet published, by diverlaura:
    1) The lifecycle of an octo can be determined by sticking a rubber dry suit glove into a sucker.
    2) Color and/or pattern correspond to emotions (curiousity, anger, annoyance)
    3) Octopi have any sort of greeting ritual. If the octopus wanted to stick a sucker on the diver’s dry suit glove, the octo is perfectly capable of initiating the contact.
    -Fellow Diver all for fact-based education and conservation

  • CMT January 3, 2012 (12:50 pm)

    Totally agree with you bridgetosomewhere. Thanks
    DiverLaura! I think you are doing a world of good.

  • CEA January 3, 2012 (4:42 pm)

    What an extraordinary video. I love seeing these scenes of underwater life in our backyard. Thank you, Laura!!

  • JoB January 3, 2012 (7:39 pm)

    each of us has a unique perspective..
    we all grow when we share ours with the world
    thank you Laura
    this video mad emy day

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