My wife and I were blown away by My Octopus Teacher.  This Netflix documentary tells the one-year story of Craig Foster’s relationship with a common octopus.  The documentary was filmed in the kelp forests in a shallow lagoon in False Bay near Capetown, South Africa.  Craig would free dive bare chested every day in these frigid waters and encountered an octopus.  He revisited the spot every day and over a period the octopus began to trust him and to establish a bond. 

He follows her on a hunt, witnesses a shark attack that takes one of the octopus’s arms and watches it slowly grow back, watches the octopus escape another shark attack by riding on its back.  Near the end of this year long underwater relationship, the octopus climbs on to his hand and then rests on his chest.   Foster said “It was absolutely mind-blowing.  The boundaries between her and I seemed to dissolve.”  Who knew an octopus would show such intelligence and curiosity.  I will not tell you the ending – you have to watch for yourself!

I wondered how they managed to film this, so did a little research.  Craig Foster, who can breath-hold for up to six minutes, was accompanied by Pippa Ehrlich who can hold her breath for up to 4 minutes.  They would typically spend about 2 hours a day in the water.  Presumably they needed to free dive so they would not be generating bubbles and scare away the critters they were observing.  This documentary is hugely enlightening and raises all kinds of questions about the whys and where’s of marine animal behavior.  Because some divers will spear  lion fish (an invasive species that poses a serious threat to the reef) and offer them to sharks, nurse sharks now follow divers and will show them where the lion fish are hiding!  This is clearly fish demonstrating intelligence.  I know I will be looking at things a lot differently on my next dive and will move a lot slower, The slower I go, the more I see.

I strongly recommend you watch My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. You can learn more about Craig Foster and his efforts to motivate scientists, policymakers and individuals to engage meaningfully with nature and protect our oceans at this link: