Recently I had an extraordinary encounter with a hunting blue-ringed octopus at Blairgowrie Pier. I have encountered these adorable creatures quite a few times, though usually they are incredibly timid and scurry for cover the moment they have been detected. You may be surprised to learn that (like stingrays) their deadly reputation is more attributable to their means of self-defence than to any intent they may have to cause harm to humans. The last blue-ring I met was during my birthday week dive in February:
On this occasion, I spied the small, mottled creature, its rings glowing blue in anticipation, climbing the sponge-encrusted pylons as it searched for crustaceans. It quickly became accustomed to and comfortable with my presence, remaining intent upon sensing the vibrations of small crabs and tiny red-handed shrimp as they tried to remain hidden behind and beneath sponges and shells. I signalled for my dive buddy’s attention to share my precious find, but to no avail; he had already begun to swim amongst the pylons closer to the shore.
In the past, I have only managed to share a brief few moments with camera shy blue-ringed octopuses, usually as they skulked furtively across the sand from one hidey-hole to the next. To my purest delight, this time I spent a full 20 minutes with the fearless cephalopod; it showed no signs of distress or distraction from its intensely focussed hunting.
Towards the end of our time together, I switched my camera from video to stills, hoping to capture a few images. As I adjusted the position of my strobe, I found myself slightly bemused that my dive buddy Geoffrey (aka ‘Great White’) had finally swum back to find me, virtually pressing his nose against mine to catch a glimpse of the happy little hunter for himself.
Imagine my absolute terror at the moment of realisation that it was not Geoffrey at all whose eyes stared intently back into my own, but a massive smooth ray that lay motionless, its face brazenly pressed against mine. I adore stingrays and have swum closely with them many times, and while I have no fear of them whatsoever, I have honestly never been so startled in all my life!
Panicked by the creature’s fearlessness, I swam as fast as my fins would allow away from the blue-ring along the underside of the pier to find Geoffrey. Very soon it became apparent that the ray had followed me into the shallows, circling endlessly and brushing against me like an enormous puppy wanting to be petted! (I can’t wait to share my footage of this next extraordinary critter with you in my next post.)
Earlier this week, I did my Dive 324 with Geoffrey at Flinders Pier, diving in conditions like the milkiest porridge. Visibility was less than 1 metre and we could barely see each other, let alone find any critters to film or photograph. Other dives yield a cornucopia of unfathomable critters in quick succession, transcending our wildest expectations and mirroring the broader spectrum of life in all its mottled, magnificent madness.
Life is truly wonderful, strange and unpredictable. I grapple with it daily and slowly I am learning to come to terms with its mixed blessings and quirks. Many people harbour untold, unfounded fears of blue-ringed octopuses and stingrays. But these exquisite creatures hold infinite wonder and joy for those who find the courage to face and celebrate their fearsome beauty. Such is the strangeness of life on land and beneath the surface.
Love and bubbles,
ps Tank you so much for taking the time to read this post. While you are here, don’t forget to check out a few more of my ‘scuba vs tumour’ underwater adventures!
pps And don’t forget to subscribe to this blog by email for new post updates straight to your inbox … AND please feel free to follow PINK TANK SCUBA on Facebook! 😀