The waters off Campbell River, a little town just past the halfway mark of Vancouver Island, are home to a whole pile of sea creatures. The diving is incredible there, the water cold and clear, with enormous forests of bull kelp reaching towards the sky. One such creature that calls the area home is the giant Pacific octopus, which you’re not super likely to see. So when a teacher and scuba diver named Andrea Humphreys set out to find one for a friend who’d never seen one, they likely didn’t have the highest of hopes. But not only did she find one, she got a hug from one.
“Typically, when we find octopuses, they are in their dens, so like hiding in little cracks, crevices, under rocks and open logs,” Humphreys told the Vancouver Sun. “So to have it sitting out in the open was pretty rare.”
The octopus, which Humphreys estimates had a tentacle span of about 10 feet, was very curious. According to IFL Science, the octopus hung around the divers for over half an hour.
“It was just crawling on my camera, crawling on my lips, giving me a hug. These huge tentacles were up over my face and mask,” Humphreys told The Guardian. “Every time I backed away from it, the octopus just kept coming towards me. And it was just so amazing and inspiring.”
Humphreys wrote that she knew the octopus wasn’t threatening because of its color. “The color of the mantle and body is a pretty good indicator,” she explained on her YouTube Channel, Reallifemermaidphotography. “If it turns white then it’s upset or angry. Red is the normal color.”
Octopuses (no, it’s not octopi) are extraordinarily intelligent. In lab tests, they’ve proven to have astonishing capabilities. They’re cunning escape artists and can even open jars with their tentacles. Even more impressive, though, in terms of proving intelligence, is the fact that they can learn to manipulate an L-shaped object so it can pass through a small square opening in a wall.
“Octopuses meet every criteria for the definition of intelligence,” wrote Lisa Poncet, a PhD student in Neuroethology at the University of Caen-Normandie. “They show a great flexibility in obtaining information (using several senses and learning socially), in processing it (through discriminative and conditional learning), in storing it (through long-term memory), and in applying it toward both predators and prey.”