I’ve recently started watching “My Octopus Teacher”, a documentary about a snorkeler’s close friendship with an octopus that he visited daily in the kelp ocean garden where she lived. It was an amazing reminder of a post that I wrote many years ago, which I’ve included in its entirety below.
Before you read it however, I wanted to mention another story that highlights the intelligence of octopuses. One named Inky escaped from a New Zealand aquarium some years ago, and the off-hours break-out involved a multi-leveled plan. This included removing the lid from his tank, scooting down the hall and then entering a small pipe that led him to….the ocean! They tracked his wet trail the next morning. The aquarium staff said that he was a very adventurous and curious octopus, so it was fitting with is personality!
So, without further ado, here is my old article that I wrote:
“The other day I saw this video of an octopus escaping a ship’s deck by squeezing itself through a small hole. The fisherman who had caught it allowed the octopus to leave, and filmed its process of returning to the ocean.
The fisherman claimed that the octopus could ‘sense’ where the ocean is, and make its way back to it through a small hole in the side of the deck, and that’s exactly what happened. The fact that the animal could transform its shape to ooze through the opening didn’t surprise me as much as my husband—after all, they’re known for squeezing into small cracks and crevices in coral and stuff. It was the other video that we clicked on after that surprised me.
That’s when I learned how smart octopi really are. In this video, some scientists were studying their problem-solving and learning abilities, and apparently these cephalopods are a lot more intelligent than their general mucousy blobbiness would lead one to believe.
The scientists designed a box that needed to be opened in a certain way in order to retrieve the food (crab) inside, and the octopus in question would learn to do it and retain that information. Other octopi, not familiar with box, could watch the first one’s actions and learn how to do it themselves. They learn by watching, and can repeat the action.
This all got me thinking: what sort of wisdom is there to take away from the octopus? I love the symbolism in that one’s struggle to make it back to the ocean, and freedom. The persistence, patience, and dedication shown in reaching its goal is my personal take-away. Also the fact that it can plan things, and uses tools. It sounds like my own personal to-do list: Plan things. Use tools to achieve goals. Go toward freedom.
Thank you for your gifts, oh Octopus, Thinker of The Ocean.”