Hawaii News | Ocean Watch Witnessing a weird octopus is a real treat on the reef By Susan Scott June 4, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. I am rarely spooked by anything in the ocean anymore, but last week a reef animal caused me to leap from the water with a cry of alarm. I was snorkeling in about 3 feet of clear water when a dark, narrow object shot past me from behind, passing close to my ear. Attack! A moment later, however, I found myself not under attack at all, but hovering eye to eye over a big, healthy octopus. The octopus looked as startled to see me as I was to see it. I don’t know what caused the octopus to rocket around the reef like that. Normally, octopuses spend most of their time in or near their lairs. Apparently something had been chasing it. Sharks and monk seals consider octopus a boneless treat, as do some people, but I would have noticed such big predators in my few feet of water. Barracuda and moray eels, however, also eat octopus, and those fish are abundant on this, my favorite snorkeling reef. (Sorry, it’s a secret due to collecting.) Hawaii’s average moray isn’t much bigger than Hawaii’s average octopus, and in a fight it would be a close call as to which is predator and which is prey. I once watched an octopus drag a 2-foot-long dead moray to the octopus’ den, where the two of them disappeared. The battle between that powerful fish and the muscular invertebrate must have been a sight to behold. Some octopus homes are obvious because the animals often toss the shells from their crab and snail meals on their doorstep. This may be the octopus’ garden that Ringo Starr wrote about in his 1969 Beatles song of that name, although in fact it’s the octopus’ trash bin. My flying octopus escaped whatever had been chasing it, but the creature was now exposed to another potential predator. The octopus stared at me, calculating its move. What weird animals octopuses are, I thought, watching it size me up. Octopuses look like bagpipes with eyes. As I eased my camera from my pocket, the creature donned its invisibility cloak. Nice try. If the octopus had been this still and bumpy brown while I was still snorkeling, this camo would have worked, but now it was too late. The octopus was pretending to be a rock, but in fact posing for my pictures was a day octopus, called hee mauli in Hawaiian. This is the species we snorkelers see most often because it hunts in daylight, usually at dawn and dusk. The day octopus is about 3 feet wide with arms spread. The octopus decided to take shelter in a nearby hole. Changing color and texture to match its background during its swirling move to safety, it looked like the octopus version of moonwalking. So privileged did I feel to witness the grace and beauty of this extraordinary animal, I got a little teary. It’s the best marine animal attack I’ve ever had. ——— Reach Susan Scott at www.susanscott.net. Previous Story Woman sentenced in isle mortgage fraud Next Story Europe’s fade starts to take toll in the U.S.