Today we headed out to the more beutiful of our two main dive spots in search of an old cage put on the seafloor many years ago and for me to continue my search of worms. As part of the dive we also got to release an octopus that had been collected as bycatch by one of the fish physiology groups working down here. Their research team collects fish from shallow to ~600m using a variety of methods including using fish traps. In addition to the fish species he collects he also occasionally gets octopods. This creates a bit of a conundrum. While he could release the octopods right back into the wild – the octopods have a very poor chance of survival. Seals will hang out around his team while they fish and an octopus can use its many forms of camouflage on the seafloor, in the water column it can be more aptly described as bait. The only other option is to take them back to the station until some divers can escort the octopus down to the seafloor where it can return home under the cover of benthos. As part of our dive today, we performed that service (it took very little arm twisting to get us to do this).
Here is our friendly octopus trying to escape from his enclosure in the water tables next to our lab. He was moments from freedom (in this case death, rather than actual freedom as he would not do well on the floor ) when I stumbled upon him, snapped this photo, and the gently pushed him back into the water. You can see his arms here floating above the rim of the mesh cage that we had him temporarily housed in.
At the beginning of our dive, Rory put the octpus on his hand and it stuck. Actually it stuck both of his hands together but since that meant Rory couldn’t adjust his buoyancy, he had to coax the octopus onto only one hand. The octopus stayed on that hand the entire way to the seafloor. After it they reached to bottom Rory had a bit of difficulty getting the octopus off as it seemed pretty content to be on him rather than free. As soon as he got the octopus to let go it took off and stuck to my hand for a while. Apparently this individual likes dry gloves as much as we do.Then the octopus settled down and relaxed on the seafloor as we went looking for the old cages and I continued to look for dense worm communities.
We ended up finding the cage and taking some photos. These cages have been in place for more than 30 years. Everything that is on them that cannot move (what we call sessile) gives us information as to how fast things grow here. For example sponges. The cage was about 3ft high – the same size as these sponge below. How old do you think they are?