An 8 Arm Camera Thief
A Giant Pacific Octopus Steals Scuba Diver's Camera
By Brent Durand, underwater photos by Drew Collins, video by Randy Williams
Diver checks out a giant pacific octopus. This is most likely not the octopus that took Drew's camera.
Drew Collin’s underwater photo dive in the Pacific Northwest started like any other in Des Moines, Washington this past January. Drysuit, camera and jokes with his dive buddy, Randy Williams. Both Drew and Randy are very experienced divers and are both volunteers at marine science centers in the Seattle area. Read more about diving the Pacific Northwest. Little did they know that it would turn into an exciting dive day, complete with video and photo documentation.
Drew's first shot, showing one of the Giant Pacific Octopus arms reaching out of its den. Photo: Drew Collins
Drew Meets the Octopus
During the early part of the dive, Drew found an octopus inside its den - a perfect photo subject. Drew shot two images, reviewed them and adjusted strobe position for another shot. Then the octopus slowly moved two arms out of its den. Great - more of the octo’s body filling the frame! What can be better than spending an entire dive photographing a giant pacific octopus?
The Octopus Strikes!
As Drew looked down to review the third image the octopus struck, grabbing his mask with one arm and camera handle with another. More arms starting coming out. Drew’s instinct led him to grab his mask with one hand and position it back over his face while clearing it… his other hand firmly on the camera handle feeling the ~40lbs. octopus tug on the rig.
Little does Drew know, but the Octopus is preparing to strike with lightning speed. Photo: Drew Collins
The Battle Continues
Then came more arms, quickly outnumbering Drew’s two hands and a dynamic tug of war began. For each arm that Drew yanked off his rig, two more gained a firmer grip. His breathing sped up with the effort. The octopus kept a strong hold on the camera rig and was pulling at Drew’s dry gloves until the seams came undone, flushing his wrists with the 42 degree water. He knew his air was going quickly and tried putting one arm against the rock for leverage, pulling with the other arm. No use. More water flooded into his drysuit and Drew yanked and tugged from every angle.
Drew took a moment, started to control his breathing, and checked his air. He still had air - that was good.
At this point Drew decided that safety was more important than his camera rig and conceded the battle, sometimes the necessary move when fighting a war. He unattached the housing from his lanyard (it was connected to his BCD). After a long (and cold) surface swim back to shore, remembering his location on the surface near a buoy, Drew estimates that he took on about a gallon of frigid Pacific Northwest seawater, soaked head to toe.
Back to Shore to Prepare for Dive #2
Once on shore, Randy pulled out his cell phone to record a video as proof that the battle had actually occurred. Most of us (including Drew) would be pretty upset to have our camera rig stolen, but you'll see in the video below that the guys were able to make light of the situation and plan a second dive to retrieve the camera. Drew would have been upset if he lost the new camera rig underwater, but he was even more afraid to come home to his wife sans a very expensive setup.
Video taken while the Octopus was chewing on Drew's RigDrew talks through the first part of his adventure. Video: Randy Williams
Retrieving the Camera
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Drew and Randy made a second dive, descending near the buoy where Drew surfaced. As they swam a search pattern and the minutes ticked by, Drew started to worry that the Octopus (and camera) had moved to a hiding spot on the reef. But as they hit the 20 minute mark the octopus and camera rig came into view. The octopus had been unable to pull the camera rig inside her den and was now trying to chew through the acrylic dome port. The dome shade was long gone.
While Drew and Randy plan a dive to retrieve the camera, the octopus takes a few self portraits. Photo: Octopus & Drew Collins
With two bodies and four arms, the team spent a few labored minutes wrestling the camera rig away from the octopus and now have an epic story of battle with an octopus to tell!
This is what an acryllic dome port looks like after an octopus tries to eat it. Photo: Drew Collins
Drew Collins is a professional underwater and land photographer and environmentalist living and diving primarily in the cold beautiful Emerald green waters of Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington. See more of his photography at Puget Sound Photography Underwater.
Have a crazy dive story of your own? Let us know! Email firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, underwater photographer and editor with the Underwater Photography Guide. You can follow UWPG on Facebook, and also read Brent's article on Top 10 tips for fun beach diving.
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