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Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

#585: A Submarine "Selfie"

I must admit I really don't understand the "selfie" unless a person is stranded alone on a desert island. Speaking of stranded, far too many of our visitors were left "stranded" here on Catalina this weekend when gale force winds prevented them from departing on Saturday, including my guests dive buddy Heather and her main squeeze Andrew. But back to the "selfie." When I see an individual or a couple trying to take a picture of themselves that way, I usually offer to take it for them. But on a dive a while back I witnessed one of the ultimate attempts to take a "selfie."

Just before this epoch dive, Facebook and ScubaBoard had been buzzing due to a video showing a giant Pacific octopus (GPO) trying to snatch a large camera rig from two divers at Point Lobos near Monterey. Now it is pretty amazing footage, and I've been told by divers from the Pacific Northwest, where these cephalopods are common, that it is not an unusual occurrence. Imagine an octo with a 20-foot "armspan" swooping down on you from the reef and grabbing your camera! Certainly would be thrilling, especially if caught on film (er, flash memory).

I've had our much smaller two spot octopus reach out and touch my camera on several occasions. Of course being more diminutive than the GPO, they were more tentative about it since I could easily be a predator and my camera a means of capturing them not only on "film." In fact, I've eaten a number of octopus dating back to the month I spent in the Greek Islands the summer before I moved to Catalina. I relished them since they were so similar to my own cooking... very tough and chewy.

In researching a few things for this article, I was surprised to find writers seem to believe the two-spot octopus are all the same species, but my cephalopod experts have assured me this is not the case. There are two separate species of two-spots in our region. The California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides) is the most common one along "the Big Island's" mainland coast while Verrill's two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculatus) is the common species out on the islands. Although there are other distinguishing characteristics (sucker counts, skin patterns and false eye spots), a primary reason for this differentiation has to do with the structure of the eggs and the way the young hatch out of them. The California two-spot eggs hatch into miniatures of the adults that do not wander far from the adult whereas those of the Verrill's two-spot hatch into planktonic larvae that can drift with the currents and disperse over greater distances.

Back in November, I was being interviewed out on the island by Skyler Thomas for his documentary about great white sharks. Skyler wanted to do a night dive in our park and I was certainly up for that since the nasty invasive Sargassum ("devil weed") was only beginning to appear here. As always, I took my trusty video camera down under. Having a camera is the very best shark deterrent one can have... almost no one encounters a great white while they have a camera. Perhaps if they do, the camera gets swallowed up, too. Just teasing. Actually I had that 14 ft great white swim behind me as I was filming giant sea bass a few years ago with marine artist Wyland as my buddy. I guess the shark doesn't mind the camera if it isn't being pointed at them.

Anyway, I digress (as always). I was writing about octopus, not sharks. Skyler carried a GoPro with him on the dive. These tiny video cameras are pretty amazing little inventions. I've thought about getting one myself as a back-up camera when I travel. The high definition footage they create is excellent. On top of that, they are tiny and very light. If airline carry-on baggage restrictions get any worse, they could be the only underwater camera I take when I travel. They are also great for a wide range of sports like skiing, snow boarding, bicycle riding and motorcycle racing. You can check them out at our local authorized dealer, Scuba Luv.

Skyler and I saw some interesting things on the dive, but the best part came when we spotted a two-spot octopus out on the rocky reef. Octopus are fascinating creatures to film due to their behavior. Add to that their ability to change colors and patterns almost instantaneously and you have a real star for my next YouTube video. Speaking of which, if you want to see the episodes of my cable TV show, they are posted in low definition (iPod format) on my YouTube channel (DrBillBushing). Whoops, I digressed once more. Perhaps it's a sign of my advancing "maturity." Now where did I put that computer keyboard?

© 2014 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 29, 10:00 AM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. You can also watch these episodes in iPod format on YouTube through my channel there (drbillbushing). Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!

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Two-spot octopus reaching for Skyler's GoPro to take a "selfie."

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2014 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia