British Columbia

This woman lost her engagement ring in the ocean. A baby octopus helped get it back

A group of divers had all but given up on their search for the family heirloom. A baby octopus may have saved the day.

Octopuses collect shiny objects and may have brought it home to its den, says scientist

Annika Parkinson-Dow hired a group of divers in the hopes of retrieving the ring, but didn't expect not one but eight helping hands. (Vancouver Aquarium/Annika Parkinson-Dow)

In the 1997 film Titanic, treasure hunters believe Kate Winslet's character's diamond necklace, the Heart of the Ocean, has been lost to the frigid waters of the Atlantic along with her lover. Little did they know she had it all along — and eventually drops it into the ocean's depths herself.

This story is better than that one.

On Friday night, 26-year-old Annika Parkinson-Dow was swimming in Howe Sound off Bowyer Island, near Bowen Island. As she swam, she ran her hands back and forth in the dark water, admiring the sparkling bioluminescence often visible during evening swims.

It was only when she was back on shore that she noticed her engagement ring — a precious heirloom from the 1930s passed down from her fiancé's grandmother — was missing.

Heartbroken and unsure whether it had even been lost in the water, she decided to hire a team of divers on Saturday morning to see if it could be found.

"I was pretty sure that there was absolutely no chance [they'd find] it, a needle in the haystack. I wasn't even sure of the exact spot that I lost it," she said.

The ring is from the 1930s, passed down from the grandmother of Parkinson-Dow's fiancé. (Submitted by Annika Parkinson-Dow)

A few divers from a local group were game and set out in the early morning. But conditions were murky and with no sign of the ring after an hour of diving, they were ready to leave empty-handed.

Just before heading back, the group spotted a baby octopus, and decided to follow it. A short while later, there was a glint in the water — the unmistakable cluster of diamonds from a grandmother's irreplaceable ring. The octopus appeared to have led them right there.

"I was so happy because we saw them swim up, and I thought there was no way they found it," said Parkinson-Dow.

"And when I walked down to the pier to them, she was holding up the ring."

An Octopus' garden?

Without confirmation from the baby octopus, it's impossible to know whether it was a coincidence that the divers came across the ring after following it, or if the octopus led them right there.

But Chris Harley, a professor in the University of British Columbia's department of zoology, said the latter is entirely plausible.

"Octopuses do like to grab various objects and leave them out in front of their little dens — so often that's a rock or a shell. But there have been lots of reports of octopuses liking shiny things, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that the octopus actually found it," he said.

'I was pretty sure that there was absolutely no chance [they'd find] it, a needle in the haystack,' said Parkinson-Dow. (Submitted by Annika Parkinson-Dow)

"My guess there is that if the octopus put it out in front of its little den, when it saw the divers it probably thought 'well, I don't want anything to do with those divers, I'm going to hide' and if the divers then followed it back to its home, that's where it might have left the ring."

Harley said octopuses are "incredibly smart" but that it's not known why they collect shiny objects, much like crows and ravens. 

"Is it because they are home decorators and they have their own version of HGTV that they like to watch, or is it that they are building little defences around their den, or is it for some other purpose? It's just really hard to know what their intention is," he said.

"But if I lost my ring and I was scuba diving and I saw an octopus — I would certainly follow it as a potential lead."


Michelle Ghoussoub

Reporter, CBC News

Michelle Ghoussoub is a reporter and anchor for CBC News based in Vancouver. She has received a nomination for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Local Reporter. She can be reached at