An Octopus Took My Camera, and the Images Changed the Way I See the World

I was gifted with a new way of seeing the day I got mugged underwater. I had been filming creatures living in the Great African Sea Forest off the coast of South Africa about a year ago when my camera was grabbed straight out of my hands by a young octopus thief. Wrapping her arms around her bounty, she zoomed backward across the ocean floor.

This was not the first time I’d found myself at the mercy of an eight-armed robber. A couple years earlier, another curious octopus stole the wedding ring off my wife’s finger, never to be recovered. Octopuses love novel shiny things. Peering into their dens, I’ve found earrings, bracelets, spark plugs, sunglasses and a toy car with a revolving cylinder that the octopus spun round and round with its suckers.

As I wondered how to get my camera back without alarming my young friend, something surprising happened. She turned the camera around and began to film my diving partner and me.

The intriguing images she captured — videos of her own arms draped over the camera lens with our bodies in the background — had a profound effect on me. After many years filming octopuses and hundreds of other animals that call the Sea Forest home, for the first time I was seeing the world — and myself — from her perspective.

We must have looked strange to her in our masks and with our underwater flashlights. But in that moment I remembered that despite all our technology, we are not so different from our animal kin. Every breath of air, every drop of water, every bite of food comes from the living planet we share.

Credit…The octopus, via Craig Foster
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