A Canadian biologist is using some amazing photos of an encounter between her scuba diving partner and a giant octopus to shed light on the sea monster mythology.
Jackie Hildering, a biologist and marine educator, was in the water near Port Hardy, B.C. taking photos of lingcod when her dive companion Natasha Dickinson signalled with her light to indicate something interesting.
That "something" turned out to be a giant Pacific octopus completely covering Dickinson's face. Hildering checked to make sure her colleague was OK before she started snapping photos.
Photo by Jackie Hildering/The Marine Detective
"Natasha is an incredibly skilled and experienced diver with a deep respect for marine life. She was clearly not afraid, nor was the octopus," Hildering outlined in her blog, The Marine Detective.
Dickinson put her hand over the regulator in her mouth as a precaution, but allowed the curious octopus to explore around her.
The cephalopod backed away but then took an interest in a clasp at the end of a bungee cord on Dickinson's gear. Hildering's photos show one of the octopus' arms pulling on the cord.
Hildering said the encounter dispels the idea that octopuses are monstrous or Kraken-like. She said the "gentle giants" — which can grow to almost 10 metres (33 feet) from arm tip to arm tip, and nearly 200 kilograms (441 pounds) — are inquisitive and intelligent.
"As it always goes, fear and mythology thrive where there is absence of knowledge," she wrote on her blog.
"So what to do when you find a giant Pacific octopus on your dive buddy’s head? Observe, marvel, take some photos, share and maybe it can help dispel some of the mythology and vilification about these fabulous marine neighbours."
See more photos of the encounter: