I was diving among the coral reefs around Greenland recently. They’re my favourite coral reefs in the world, mostly due to nobody else realising they’re there. I do like a bit of solitude when I’m diving. That’s mostly due to my love of nude diving though. Avoids the need to carry around waterproof signs with "It’s bigger than that usually!" and "The water causes shrinkage!" written upon them. Other divers can be so cruel.
There is one drawback to solitary diving, however, and that is, of course, the danger that comes with getting into trouble. On this recent dive I got into trouble. While hitting an anemone with a hammer (it’s for a thesis I’m working on) my foot became lodged in a crack along the seabed. Distracted momentarily by my predicament I was unaware of the anemone sending out a call for help using its wiggly appendages (appendix wigglia for you latin boffs) and in the blink of a surprised eye I found myself suddenly hammerless and watching the rear end of an Emergency Distress Cod vanishing into the gloom with my tool in its clutches.
Blast! I thought. I did not want to die a shrivelled corpse.
And then a watery miracle occurred. Walking along a ridge of particularly hammerable anemone an octopus suddenly appeared. It was a large octopus – its beak was the size of my chest – but I didn’t want to say anything at the time as anyone who knows octopuses can tell you they can be touchy about that sort of thing. A good thing I’d recently received my diploma in Cephalopod Knowingness from the nearly fully-accredited University of Puerto Aguirre in Bolivia. I could not tell you its colour as, sadly, I was wearing my shades only just acquired from the Horatio Caine Online Memorabilia Store. It was stripey, though, and eyebrowless too.
The octopus eyed me for a while and I kept perfectly still. Your average octopus will not normally attack a naked diver I believe, but then I’m not privy to how many it usually comes across. Nevertheless, it never hurts to be cautious, I thought. Admittedly, that thought would have been of more use had it occurred before I started walking around the cracked seabed of a Greenland coral reef.
Tentacles from the octopus snaked out and probed my trapped limb for several moments. I was curious as to its intentions as I’m sure you can imagine. I had also opened my bowels in terror as I’m sure you’re trying not to imagine. Luckily, as it turned out, the octopus was not overly concerned with the newly-stained local environment; when one considers how much of the world’s ocean must contain fish poo I suppose it’s not that surprising.
Slowly, the octopus extended its ink-dispensing nozzle. Ahh! I thought. Clearly it was an octopus with an ink-dispensing nozzle. That would make it easier to look up should I survive. Immediately, the pair of us became the centre of an underwater ink blot. You might think that the sudden blackness that envelops one while wearing shades in the middle of a pool of ink might induce panic in even the most seasoned adventurer but you would be wrong for I instantly understood what was happening.
Octopus ink, as you may or may not know, is not really ink at all. It is, rather, a mucous-ejaculate mix which receives its distinctive coloration from woad, one of the only two plants known to grow within the lining of the gut of any sea creature (the other being opium poppies in herrings). Normally, I’m not the kind of person who finds any joy in being encased in spit and sperm – not even my own – but I was perfectly aware that the lubricant naturally present all over my body coupled with the dexterous manipulations of my octopus pal were all I needed to escape my unfortunate incarceration.
"You," I said shortly afterwards, swimming freely once more, "are a great octopus."
By way of response he winked one of his huge eyebrowless eyes at me and then waved his tentacles in a strangely captivating way. I was a little confused as to the meaning but within seconds an Emergency Distress Cod swam into view, dropping the hammer stolen a little earlier back into my hand as it passed.
"Scratch that," I said. "You are a bloody great octopus."
I think I saw the octopus smile but the shades were still smeared with sea cum and it may have been just my imagination. Regardless, it is a nice way to remember this gentle giant of the ocean and my saviour as – following a swift hammering – I devoured it there and then and found it to be most unappetising indeed.