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Lyle Zapato

Mr. Beale And The Poulpe

Lyle Zapato | 2007-10-08.1355 LMT | Cephalopods | Defensive Techniques | Random Found Thing | Retro

Today is International Cephalopod Awareness Day. Which poses the question: Why should we be aware of cephalopods?

In years past, lack of awareness of our cephalopodan cohabitants has only led to misunderstandings, and often times violence. Take for instance this sad tale of an encounter gone horribly wrong between an Englishman and a Japanese octopus:

Mr. Beale and the Poulpe

[Octopuses'] remarkable spirit, as well as their strength, is evinced by an adventure which Mr. Beale, an Englishman, had with one of them among the rocks of the Bonin Islands, where he had gone ashore to seek for shells. As he was moving about, he was suddenly arrested by seeing at his feet a most extraordinary looking animal, crawling toward the surf, which it had only just left. It was creeping on its eight legs, which, from their soft and flexible nature, bent considerably under the weight of its body, so that it was lifted by the efforts of its tentacula only a small distance from the rocks. It appeared much alarmed at seeing him, and made every effort to escape. Mr. Beale endeavored to stop it by pressing on one of its legs with his foot; but, although he used considerable force for that purpose, its strength was so great that it several times liberated its member in spite of all the efforts he could employ on the wet and slippery rocks. He then laid hold on one of the tentacles with his hands and held it firmly, so that it appeared as if the limb would be torn asunder by the united efforts of himself and the creature. He then gave it a powerful jerk, wishing to disengage it from the rocks to which it clung so forcibly by its suckers. This effort it effectually resisted; but the moment after, the apparently enraged animal lifted its head with its large projecting eyes, and loosing its hold of the rocks, suddenly sprang upon Mr. Beale's arm, and clung to it by means of its suckers with great power, endeavoring to get its beak, which could now be seen between the roots of its arms, in a position to bite. A sensation of horror pervaded his whole frame, when he found that this hideous animal had fixed itself so firmly on his arm. Its cold, slimy grasp was extremely sickening; and he loudly called to the captain, who was at some distance, to come and release him from his disgusting assailant. The captain quickly came, and taking him down to the boat, during which time Mr. Beale was employed in keeping the beak of the octopus away from his hands, soon released him, by destroying his tormentor with the boat-knife, which he accomplished by cutting away portions at a time.

(From Illustrated Natural History of the Animal Kingdom (1859), p. 498, by Samuel Griswold Goodrich.)

Raising cephalopod awareness will help end the ignorant, speciesist attitude that lets Englishmen think it's proper to step on the arms of innocent octopuses. He deserved to be bitten and was just lucky that the octopus totally screwed up the kusa zuribiki move.

UPDATE: Also see Celebrate International Cephalopod Awareness Day at Cephalopodcast for more cephalopod-awareness-related links.

End of post.