A scuba diver near Port Hardy, on the north coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., got up close and personal with a giant Pacific octopus on Sunday, when the marine creature wrapped itself around her face.

The encounter between Natasha Dickinson and the octopus was caught on camera by her diving partner Jackie Hildering, a biologist and marine educator who blogs under the name The Marine Detective.

"I headed over there and to my absolute amazement I saw that she had a giant Pacific octopus right over her face," said Hildering.

The first thing Hildering did was to make sure that both her diving companion Natasha Dickinson and the octopus weren't in any discomfort.

"Right away I got a sense of how relaxed the big octopus hug was," she said.

Dickinson put her hand over the regulator in her mouth as a precaution, but was otherwise comfortable allowing the animal to explore.

As soon as Hildering knew everyone was safe, her educator brain kicked in and she pulled out her camera — it was a perfect opportunity to show true octopus behaviour.

"My whole reason for writing the blog and sharing the pictures was to dispel the idea that they're somehow monstrous or kraken-like," she said.

Hildering says octopuses have a bad reputation and are often vilified in popular culture. But her experiences as a marine biologist and a diver have shown otherwise.

"We divers know just how intelligent, inquisitive and remarkable these animals are," she said. "These sorts of exchanges are usually very respectful."

She says the only times she's seen octopus act defensively is when a diver has done something to provoke them or if they're overly habituated to humans.

"Octopus don't suddenly come out and jump you," said Hildering.


  • A previous version of this story stated the divers were near Port McNeill, B.C.; in fact, they were near Port Hardy, B.C.
    Feb 23, 2015 5:25 PM PT