Get your hands wet: Visitor view of aquarium adventure

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s hard to imagine taking a West Coast treasure like the Ucluelet Aquarium for granted. Here’s a first-person account from a visitor from Washinton state.

My family and I recently had a great time exploring Vancouver

Island. We stayed at my uncle’s float house in Barkley Sound, we swam in tide pools and jumped into the emerald green Kennedy River. One of our favorite stops though was the Ucluelet Aquarium.

My favorite thing at the Ucluelet catch and release aquarium was the Giant Pacific Octopus.

This octopus is very young and small (it weighs maybe 4 pounds?!!).

When we first arrived the Aquarium workers were introducing the octopus and they didn’t know yet if this young giant was a male or female. I soon learned how to tell the gender of an octopus.

By counting three tentacles to the right you look to see if the very end of the tentacle has suction cups all the way down or not.

If the end of the tentacle is smooth (with no suction cups) it is a male! We soon discovered that this new octopus is a male.

What I really enjoyed about this octopus was that he, unlike most octopi who are new to an environment, did not do what they would have done. Usually they find a place to hide away as soon as they are put into the aquarium tank, but this new occupant was very sociable.

He suctioned himself to the glass so we could easily see him.

We could even see him looking at us!

What I think is the most amazing thing about him was how his color and texture could change to mimic his surroundings.

We watched him change from smooth skin all over, to kind of prickly bumpy, even spiky skin. He also changed from a dusky reddish-purple color to more of a pinkish white right before our eyes.

Incredible! These octopi have a very short life span for such a large animal – only 3-4 years. As well as having a short life span they are the fastest growing predator on earth! The same day that this young male a short life span they are the fastest growing predator on earth! The same day that this young male came into the aquarium, a female octopus that had been there for three months was being released back into the ocean.

We were told that she had grown to be 20-25 pounds during her short stay at the aquarium. What a fascinating creature!

Mia Underwood, above right, with her brother Aden, as they explore the Ucluelet Aquarium.

Does your family have a nature adventure to share? Reach us at editor@westerlynews. ca.