Years from now, divers David Malvestuto and Warren Murray will be telling their grandchildren about the time they wrestled a giant Pacific octopus off the coast of California. And unlike mythical tales of extraordinary encounters, they’ll have the video footage to prove it.
Malvestuto, 34, and Murray, 56, were diving off Bluefish Cove in Carmel earlier this month when they chanced upon a rare giant Pacific octopus. The huge creature measured eight feet across and blended in perfectly with its rocky surroundings – even fooling the divers, who said the octopus’ camouflage rendered it nearly invisible at first.
Sensing the divers’ presence, the octopus lunged at Murray, who had a camera stretched out in front of him. The two wrangled over the camera, the octopus’ arms wrapping completely around and even up Murray’s arms. The divers were able to snap a few shots of the struggle before the giant octopus released its grip and disappeared back into the depths.
“Pacific octopus not a fan of being photographed, apparently,” Malvestuto mused in the description for a video of the encounter uploaded to YouTube.
Giant Pacific octopuses are found along the coasts of the northern Pacific Ocean, from California all the way to the shores of Japan and China. The sea creature can reach up to 16 feet in length and weigh up to 110 pounds. According to National Geographic, the largest giant Pacific octopus ever encountered was 30 feet across and weighted more than 600 pounds.
Aside from their impressive size, they’re also highly intelligent. In lab tests, giant Pacific octopi have learned to open jars, solve mazes and even mimic others of their kind.
The giant Pacific octopus hunts at night and lives primarily on a diet of shrimp, clams, lobster and fish, but has been known to attack and eat birds as well as sharks.
What caused the octopus to lunge at Murray’s camera? The divers said they believed the octopus may have glimpsed its reflection in the camera’s lens and thought it was another octopus.
Whatever the reason for the giant octopus’ ambush, the divers said the close encounter didn’t concern them.
"I wasn't too worried,” Murray told New York Daily News. “Generally they are not too interested in people. They'll just take off.”
He added: "I was thinking he would take off as soon as I got close to it. When he wasn't moving, I was excited."
The divers said they understood that octopuses are generally harmless and will only attack unless they feel threatened.
See the video of the California divers’ struggle with the giant octopus here: