AN OCTOPUS’S GARDEN, BAHAMAS
Many of us, from time to time, might like to be under the sea, warm below the storm, swimming about the coral that lies beneath the ocean waves. Though possibly not resting their heads on the seabed. This undeniably idyllic experience would be perfected by the presence of an octopus and the notional garden he lives in. Enough to make any person shout and swim about – and quite excessively at that.
The extra ingredient here is that these photographs were taken on the reef off the southern coast of Grand Bahama last week, less than 2 months after the island (along with Abaco) was smashed up by Hurricane Dorian. Thankfully, Grand Bahama Scuba has been able to return to relative normality and run diving trips again. Moreover, fears for the reefs have proved relatively unfounded. These images suggest little damage from the massive storm. The Abaco reefs have not yet been able to be assessed in any detail.
The feature creature here was observed and photographed as it took it a octopodic wander round the reef. The vivid small fishes are out and about. The reef and its static (technically ‘sessile’) life forms – corals, anemones and sponges – look in good order. The octopus takes a pause to assess its surroundings before moving on to another part of the reef.
THE PLURAL(S) OF OCTOPUS REVISITED
A long time ago I wrote a quasi-learned disquisition on the correct plural for the octopus. There were at least 3 possibilities derived from Greek and Latin, all arguable but none so sensible or normal-sounding as ‘octopuses‘. The other 2 are octopi and octopodes. If you want the bother with the details check out THE PLURAL OF OCTOPUS.
There’s an aspect I missed then, through rank ignorance I’d say: I didn’t check the details of the Scientific Classification. Now that I am more ‘Linnaeus-woke’, I have two further plural candidates with impeccable credentials. Octopuses are cephalpods (‘headfeet’) of the Order Octopoda and the Family Octopodidae. These names have existed since naturalist GEORGES CUVIER (he of the beaked whale found in Bahamas waters) classified them thus in 1797.
RH ADVICE stick with ‘octopuses’ and (a) you won’t be wrong (b) you won’t get into an un-winnable argument with a pedant and (3) you won’t sound pretentious
OPTIONAL MUSICAL DIGRESSION
Whether you are 9 or 90, you can never have too much of this one. If you are somewhere in the middle – or having Ringo Starr free-styling vocals doesn’t appeal – you can. Step back from the vid.
All fabulous photos by Melinda Riger, Grand Bahama Scuba, Nov 2019
I so enjoyed this celebration of octopuses, RH. Fun word discussion and Beatles song, and relieving reef information after the devastation of Dorian. Most spectacular were the photos. Wow, Melinda really outdid herself on these. Fantastic images. I have only seen an octopus once underwater, while snorkeling, and I was so disappointed when it went invisible and I couldn’t show my partner. I find them so beautiful, and Melinda really captured their beauty here. Wonderful post and great news.
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Upon reading the title, my thoughts immediately went to the Beatles. Octopuses have more colour than I previously thought, and their surroundings are beautiful too. Interesting to learn something new like this. Now, I need to sipel any myths. Do they attack people with their tentacles? Other than the woman on social media who bit one while it was alive or what was in horror movies I don’t know. I am guessing they are like other species, rather shy unless provoked or protecting their young. Thank you.
Hi Jane, you’ve got it – if left alone there’s no problem. They can be quite inquisitive, so if a human – the alien in the garden – keeps a respectful distance (s)he may have an amazing experience just watching. The natural tendency would be not to attack unless provoked. It’s the same with sharks. The saying goes that sharks don’t ‘infest the water’, they live in it. Humans are the intruders and if they don’t behave with respect it’s no wonder there’s trouble. Attacks often result from people disregarding advice or ignoring warning signs in the shark behaviour that they are being made to feel uncomfortable.