ALIEN INVADERS

WEIRD and WONDERFUL

I was nearing the end of my diving for the season. The bay's waters were cooling rapidly. Now into November, my temperature gauge read +6ºC. Here I was in a wetsuit. I had left the house at night, heading to Derrynane to go off the beach out to the shallow reefs of Carrigycrone Island. With all my gear on and with video camera and lights in hand, I waded backwards into the water. the constellation of Cygnus the Swan was directly overhead. the Milky Way was ablaze with distant galaxy stars. The scene was set. As my fins lifted off the bottom sand I lay on my back and finned for another 150 meters. Reaching the northern end of the island, I headed west until I found the gap in the rocks that I would go through. A receding swell gently propelled me through the narrows. In the pitch black I positioned myself vertically in the water.

 

The wetsuit was keeping me relatively warm. I had decided not to switch on my video lights. I had learned that stealth is one of the best techniques when trying to capture anything unusual underwater. I knew that my positioning at the back of the island would allow me descend approximately 10 meters onto the sandy bottom. Facing towards the East I let the air out of my jacket. I slowly began my descent until a few seconds later I felt the bottom. I went into the kneeling position. I brought my camera and video lights around and turned on the beams. Oh gosh! Right there in front of me, sitting on top of a Kelp frond was this beautiful Octopus, the one in the video. I do not know who got more of a fright, the Octopus or me? I turned off the lights. In the watery darkness I began to blindly feel the buttons of the camera, getting it ready so that I could record. I turned on the lights once more. To my amazement the Octopus was still there. I turned off the lights once more. Just as I was about to turn on the entire rig to begin filming, I felt something land gently on my neoprene covered head. My heart began to race. My air intake increased. Even though I could not see I knew that it was the Octopus. I felt one of its tentacles go down the back of my head. It found the slit between the hood and the top of my wetsuit. It suckers began to probe the back of my neck. I really had to calm down. Inside I was feeling all these emotions. I conjured up everything I could and began to enter into a trance-like state. I especially wanted to do this because I know how incredible Octopus are at sensing their environment and I really wanted it to feel my calm self. To know that I was no threat to it. As I cleared my mind of all thoughts and concentrated on the moment I began to relax. A second tentacle went along the right hand side of my mask. Would the Octopus try to get it under the silicon? Again I could feel it suckers, this time on the exposed skin of my face. I really felt this incredible bond between myself and the Octopus. I know that may sound strange but really, I have had quite a few encounters with marine life and most definitely had these feelings of being connected. In what seems like an eternity, all of a sudden the Octopus lifted off me. I quickly turned on my lights and the camera and began recording. For the next eleven minutes or so, the octopus allowed my to journey with it. I did not know where it was going to take me. Eventually we departed company. I was so emotionally charged that there and then I decided to head back to the surface. Was I the luckiest man alive? Yes, I definitely was that night.

 

This cephalopod is frequently encountered when diving Kenmare bay. It can be found hunting for prey such as crustaceans (Crabs, prawns and Shrimp) and uses its arms to crawl along the sea floor and through kelp forests. It is main active at night, tending to stay well hidden and camouflaged amongst the rocky substrate. When frightened its skin tends to turn white, as can be seen at the end of this video and purple red if angry. If it needs to escape quickly, it uses a siphon to shoot out jets of water, propelling it backwards at great speed.