Octopus Ashore

West winds of ~25 knots brought heavily overcast skies loaded with rain this morning. The wind continued into the afternoon and the rain stopped occasionally while the sky brightened but remained dynamic and dramatic. As darkness fell it was still blowing 18 – 20 knots west. Barometric pressure rose steadily all day levelling off at dark, just below 1010 hPa. Forecasters call for light winds and showers here tomorrow.

It was a quiet day on the boating front with no whale watching or other vessels observed in the Ecological Reserve. Patrol vessels were positioned in Race Passage to ward off any unsuspecting boaters who might be venturing too close to Rocky Point and loud explosions punctuated lunchtime.

Ecologically, the day heralded spring, which is eternally welcome and now only a few weeks off. Mid-morning, Chunk, the woeful, sole remaining Northern Elephant Seal, shuffled off to the sea, leaving without destroying his daffodil pillow (see yesterday’s Log photo). The first few migrant shorebirds heading north, stopped and rested for a while on Great Race. I think they were Western Sandpipers. A small flock of Rock Sandpipers foraged on small invertebrates amongst the fresh seaweed turf.

A large, dead Giant Pacific Octopus was lodged in amidst the boulders on the south shore. It is hard to say what the cause of death was, but this is a species in which the female tends the eggs, while fasting, for seven months (or more depending on the temperature) and she dies soon after the eggs hatch. Lets hope that 50, 50,000 to  60,000 tiny hatchling octopods are tumbling out on the ebbing tide finding wee plankton to feed on and flashing colour signals to their siblings.

Right now the solar panels need extra help from the Lister generator for a few hours each evening but with spring on the way, there will be longer days and more intense sunlight levels, which will increase the contribution by solar generation. If anyone reading this knows of a small wind generation system that will not damage birds, please let Pearson College know about it. This is a windy place and could possibly be entirely weaned from diesel by using wind to supplement the mighty solar panels. The caveat is that the wind turbine can’t harm the birds that the Ecological Reserve is here to protect.

There were no visitors and chores were routine.





March 22 – Rainbows and Venus

Overcast in the morning, rain and breaks of sun in the afternoon
Wind: NE 3-17, switching to SW 2-14 in the late afternoon onwards
Air Temperature: Low 7.8°C, High 10.0°C
Ocean Temperature: 8.8°C

A 2.6m high tide came overnight, sending lots of logs floating through the reserve today. A small dead octopus washed ashore near the energy building. It was noticed by the visiting Pearson students, much to the excitement of their curious marine science minds.

The visiting students returned to the college this morning.

A floatplane flew very low over Great Race this morning. One eco tour boat was seen in the reserve today.

A very bright Venus was visible this evening, soon after the sunset. It was in the west of the sky, just north of the moon.

Dec 31, visitors, octopus

overcast, wind light.

Chris came out in the morning with a group of 8 visitors.

Several octopus encounters today: there was an octopus near jetty as the guests were leaving, I heard a fisherman on the radio talking about having caught an octopus, and in the evening I came a across a small octopus in a tide pool at a very low (0.1 meter) tide.

1 ecotour and 1 recreation boat in the reserve today

-tidy engine room and house for visitors
-did a maintenance tour with Chris
-cut, chopped, stacked wood
-checked battery water level
-fuel inventory for month end report
-started preparing month end report

Sean Leroy doing Masters Thesis on MPA Advisory Process

Thursday, June 13, 2002
TEMPERATURE Max 20.8C  Min 11.1C  Reset 19.2C
MARINE LIFE: The harbour seals are becoming very nervous of human presence, several times today they swept into the water at the sight of people on the pathways. The 4 pairs of Oystercatchers all have chicks now, a good sign that perhaps the river Otter has left the island. Two octopus were sighted in the low intertidal over near the surge channel this morning.

Sean Leroy at Race Rocks

HUMAN IMPACT: Five eco-tourism vessels through the reserve and five fishing vessels on the reserve’s perimeter.

Garry and Hyaku docked with two visitors this morning, Sean LeRoy, Graduate Researcher, Georgia Basin Futures Project
Sustainable Development Research Institute, University of British Columbia and Dr.James Tansey also of UBC. They came to participate in the webcast with Garry and Ryan on Marine Protected Areas this morning with Tim Langois, Leigh Marine Laboratory University of Auckland, and Anne Saloman, University of Washington, Zoology Department .

langoisgroupAfter a tour of the Island and a great discussion about MPA’s in Canada and New Zealand they all left in the afternoon.
posted by at 10:49 PM

Good Morning:
WEATHER: Sky Clear  Vis. 8 miles  Wind 0-5 Knots from West  Sea 1-2 Foot Chop
posted by Garry Fletcher at 5:03 AM

Enteroctopus dolpheni: Giant Pacific Octopus: The Race Rocks Taxonomy

rmoctopus eye

Enteroctopus dolpheni: Giant Pacific Octopus: The advanced eye of a mollusc. Photo by Ryan Murphy

Getting up close and personal was one of the things that former Ecoguardian Ryan Murphy was able to do very well underwater.. Consequently he produced the following interesting images from underwater.

We frequently encounter Octopus while diving at Race Rocks. They blend in very well with the algae and can change colors rapidly. Often the best way to see them is to spot their large (1-2 cm) white suckers in a crevice or cave. According to the website below, “Although it is very unusual to find an individual over 45kg, one large individual captured just near Victoria in 1967 weighed 70 kilograms (156 pounds) and was almost 7.5 meters ( 23 feet ) from arm tip to arm tip.

Smaller animals occur occasionally in low intertidal pools on rocky shores, larger individuals generally subtidal to depths of 100m; along North Pacific rim from northern Asia to California;

One of the largest octopus species known, the largest specimen on record with a total arm spread of 9.6m and a weight of 272 kg; dorsal mantle length usually over 20 cm; weight sometimes exceeding 50 kg; body ovoid, with extensive skin folds, red to reddish brown above, pale below; ocelli absent; arms 3-5 times body length, lacking specialized enlarged suckers and large truncate papillae; hectocotylus large, about one-fifth the length of the third right arm; with 12-15 lamellae on the outer demibranch of each gill; gill lamellae 25-29; ink dark brown; eggs measuring 6-8 mm by 2-3 mm, planktonic larva with a single row of chromatophores on each arm; borne in capsules on long stalks, these entangled and cemented together to form long festoons.

The Giant Pacific Octopus, (Enteroctopus dofleini , Hochberg, 1998) was formerly classified as : Octopus dofleini (Wulker, 1910)


Video on Octopus necropsy

Giant Pacific Octopus frequently appear at Race Rocks in the subtidal waters. They are also seen occasionally washed up in the intertidal zone where they contribute to the energy flow of the gulls and eagles. This individual which had died recently in June 2002, became the subject of a webcast and an impromptu dissection on the shore.
Domain: Eukarya
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order Octopoda
Suborder: Incirrata
Family :Octopodidae
Genus: Enteroctopus
Species: dofleini (Hochberg, 1998)
Common Name:  Giant Pacific Octopus
Although E.dofleini has been used extensively in laboratory studies, its natural history is still poorly known. The life cycle is thought to be 4-5 years. Eggs are laid throughout the year, though mainly in the winter, and development takes 5-7 months; hatching peaks in the early spring. The young are pelagic for a short period, probably about 1 month.

The three images above of a baby Octopus were taken in the intertidal zone near the docks by
Ryan Murphy in July 2004

The adults feed on crustaceans (shrimps and crabs), mollusks (scallops, clams, abalones, moon snails, and small octopuses, and fishes ( rockfishes, flat fishes, and sculpins). Large crabs are stalked and then caught with a sudden flick of one or more arms; empty crab carapaces, shiny shells, and bones often litter the entrance to a lair. The octopus takes smaller shrimps and fishes by slowly arching its body over a seaweed bed, then suddenly pouncing, and enclosing the area in a canopy formed by the web membrane that joins the basal parts of adjacent arms. The sensitive arm tips are then inserted into the impounded area to search for food.

  • Two mesozoan parasites charactersictically occur in the kidneys of E. dofleini: Dicyemennea abreida and Conocyema deca.

This octopus is fed upon by seals, sea otters, dogfish sharks, lingcod, and man. It supports small commercial fisheries in Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. Locally, it is also used by halibut fishers as bait.

Literature Cited:

Robert H. Morris, Donald P. Abbott, and Eugene C. Haderlie, Intertidal Invertebrates of California

Eugene N. Kozloff, Marine Invertebrates of the Pacific Northwest

octopus and diverLink to an assignment on Biodiversity submitted to us by
Shawna Millard Biology 202 at Bellevue Community College, Washington.



Return to the Race Rocks Taxonomy

This file is provided as part of a collaborative effort by the students, faculty and volunteers of Lester B. Pearson College .  This file was started by: Amanda Muscat PC yr 27, Dec. 2001.