My (Vancouver) Octopus Teacher

Deep in a crevice. Photo: Stephen Pearce

By Stephen Pearce

The 2021 Academy Award for best documentary feature followed the journey of a film-maker (Craig Foster) who connected and learned from an octopus over the course of a year. It was a wonderful story about a remarkable creature.

And it reminded me that on Vancouver’s Coast we have something just as remarkable. Only its not just any run-of-the mill octopus that I am talking about…

The cool, nutrient rich, waters of the North Pacific have given rise to the Great Pacific Octopus – the GPO – the largest octopus in the world.  A typical adult male can weigh 14 kg (30 lb) and have an arm span of 4 meters (14 feet). And some have been found with a span much, much larger.

An octopus on eggs. Photo: Stephen Pearce

They are shy, highly intelligent alpha predators that are curious about the world around them. And for a scuba diver lucky enough to interact with one of these creatures, it is a truly memorable encounter. Most of the time they are safely ensconced in the crevices and rock formations deep underwater. But they will interact with divers who take the time and patience to meet them. Being sensitive to their boundaries and moods is important to avoid frightening or provoking. Its never a good idea to get a creature with eight tentacles upset with you when you’re on a limited supply of air.

But, with patience and a little sensitivity, it can be an incredible experience – one that will have you looking for more opportunities to learn from these gentle giants.

Baby octopus in a bottle. Photo: Stephen Pearce

To see a GPO, connect with any of the many scuba clubs that work out of greater Vancouver. Most divers have a favourite octopus story and will be happy to share their world with you once you are properly certified.

Steve is a divemaster who lives in Coquitlam and volunteers with Dive & Sea in New Westminster. He always has time to share his time and passion with newcomers and pros alike. Follow him @bluenova2010


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