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ROV NEWS: Octopus Attack!

Posted on 07.09.2008 - 05:38 EDT in ROV NEWS by jamesmc

Over 70% of the earth's surface is sea, much of which is unexplored. In 2006 a Fareham-built underwater investigation robot has had a close encounter with an inhabitant of the deep - a giant pacific octopus.

The octopus about to attackRemotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) have revolutionised the exploration and study of undersea life.  But one ROV which was built by a company in Fareham came a little too close for comfort to one of the ocean's more fearsome looking creatures. 

The Seaeye Falcon ROV
The Seaeye Falcon ROV

A giant pacific octopus attacked a remote controlled submersible working off Vancouver Island as it was locating and recovering receivers tracking pacific offshore salmon migration.

The Falcon ROV, worth over £70,000, was built by Seaeye Marine in Fareham, was working 51 metres down on a cable recording migration patterns of salmon when the 80lb (36kg) octopus, who was also holding onto the cable, launched an attack.

The octopus was believed to giant pacific octopus, 'octopus dofleini' with 8 ft long tenticles and and a bite that can exert 1000 lbs pressure.

The octopus kicks off
The octopus kicks off

The operator, Mike Wood of SubOceanic Sciences Canada, was operating the ROV using a joystick and videolink on a boat on the surface.  He feared the octopus would bite the camera cable or cut umbilical link with the surface.

He immediately revved the ROV's thrusters in reverse in an attempt to blast seabed particles at the creature. For a moment the octopus appeared to intensify its attack with its mantle flared but eventually the swirling fragments drove it away.

Chris Tarmey from the manufacturers, Seaeye Marine told BBC South Today: "When he sent an email describing it, I didn't really believe it, I thought it was a stitch-up!"

According to Dr Ian Hudson from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, the octopus was just displaying a natural reaction: "It's strange but exciting to see - it was obviously attracted by the lights and noise of the ROV."

He explained that these submersibles have revolutionised study of the oceans: "They give you a view of the environment you wouldn't otherwise see as they work at depths beyond those that divers can go to.  It's like having a pair of eyes on the seafloor to see what animals are doing when they are displaying their natural behaviour."

Octopi have no bones or shells and can squeeze through a gap no bigger than their eye - if threatened they suck water into their body and shoot it out of a tube for a quick getaway, they also squirt jets of black ink to act as a smoke screen.

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