Friday, July 29, 2016

Octopus vulgaris,

Unless you are a diver or a fisherman, you probably won't encounter an octopus while visiting Ocracoke Island. Nevertheless, they frequent our coastal waters in respectable numbers. Ocracoke resident Pat Garber has written an engaging article for the Ocracoke Observer titled Alien in the Waters of Ocracoke: The Octopus. She observes that "Octopi are considered the most intelligent invertebrates on earth and were, according to Dr. Brenner of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, the first intelligent beings on the planet."

After Hurricane Irene in September, 2011, I went to the beach with family and friends, collecting seashells. Amy walked up to me with an armful of whelk shells she had gathered in the surf. Suddenly a small octopus emerged from the opening of one shell.

Jennifer wanted to hold the octopus, and then was startled when it squirted black ink. She quickly put it down in the water.


Lachlan, of course, was fascinated.

This enchanting critter quickly swan away in search or another shell to hide in.

Our latest Ocracoke Newletter is the story of Augustus Cabarrus, early inlet pilot, and the present day d'Oelsnitz family. Click here to read the Newsletter: Ocracoke...The French Connection.  


  1. Anonymous7:59 AM

    Wow.... I never thought of sea shells as re-purposed housing units for marine life. Certainly the octopus would have searched for a larger shell when the time came and he out grew it. Not only was he on the road to normalcy after the hurricane but along comes somebody to thoughtlessly evict him. Could this person have allowed the sea creature to stay in the shell and live his life unhampered. It was mentioned An ARMFUL of shells... could not one have been spared to let the creature survive. I find this disturbing. Leave nothing but footprints blah blah blah I guess nature lovers and live let live let nature be your teacher do not harass the wildlife blah blah blah. If everyone that set foot on OI and conducted themselves in a similar manner to the Armful Amy what would become of this place? Have a nice day.

    1. No one "thoughtlessly evicted" the octopus. No one even suspected that he was in the shell. He crawled out unexpectedly, and wasn't about to go back in. As you can see in the photos, the octopus was returned to the ocean unharmed. If everyone conducted themselves like Amy, life on the island would be even more wonderful than it is.

    2. Anonymous8:57 AM

      Is it not true that all of the sea shore on Ocracoke Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Sea Shore. It is National Park property is it not? Could you clarify this, as I read it online via the Ocracoke news while discussing the parking permits needed to drive on the beach thank you.

    3. All of the ocean shoreline on Ocracoke Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Most of the soundside shoreline is also part of the National Seashore, but not all of it. Most of the soundside shoreline in the village is privately owned.

  2. Debbie Leonard12:04 PM

    Philip, I agree with your last statement 100%! As for shells, what is there one minute may not be there the next and vice versa. The sea gives and it takes away.

  3. Anonymous2:45 PM

    WOW indeed for the drama filled world of a self important agitated environmentalist. There are a lot of unhappy people in the world and they want to share their unhappiness with everyone. This was a fun interesting story today with a happy ending until someone saw it through crossed eyes. Amy, you did exactly the right thing.

  4. Anonymous7:28 AM

    Perhaps Pat Garber could weigh in on this subject. Best practices when encountering sea life while shell collecting. Did not the octopus first claim the shell, but for the act of manKIND did the octopus lose his shelter. Oh he can find another one -- Octopus Lives Matter--- The world needs a few more agitated environmentalists, oh wait, those were the Native Americans , they lost the fight to the iron Buffalo, as did Majorie Stoneman Douglas, Pete Seeger, Buffy St Marie their words are blowing in the wind.DD

  5. Anonymous7:46 AM

    Lord Have mercy -- those self important agitated environmentalists at Smithsonian magazine published a report about the "innocent" act of sea shell collecting and the detrimental affects to a beach in Spain. A decline in beach health was mentioned along with a decreased number of certain shell types. You want to stem the tide of rising sea levels stop removing the shells from the coast in armfuls, it is Harmful! Try to have a nice day. Really try. I mean it. Try, just try. Take a picture on your I-phone and maybe it with be on the back cover of Self magazine.

  6. Anonymous12:21 PM

    While visiting Ocracoke Island a few weeks my 9 year old son was called a dingbatter for bouncing his basketball while crossing a street - with no traffic coming. He said a fat, smelly woman made the comment. There are a great number of unwashed citizens living on ocracoke and they should not be calling a 9 year old anything. Most of you people living there need deororant and soap - for the sake of your fellow man.
    You love the tourist $$ but then insult him. Any of you 'dingbatters' planning on visiting ocracoke hold your nose. This is an island of the great unwashed. the Sterlng family from Va.

    1. Anonymous4:28 PM

      Last month we were fortunate enough to spend a week on Ocracoke for the 35th summer in a row. We have always been met by unfailing friendliness and courtesy by the people who live and work there, and cannot think of a lovelier place to visit.

      We've heard the term "dingbatter" used, but always in a humorous manner as commentary on behavior that might not be quite what's to be expected. Such as the island visitors who seem to think of the street that runs along the harbor as a pedestrian mall and cross without looking, walk 3 or more abreast, walk on the right side instead of the left, seemingly unaware of motorized traffic - and that's just one small example that can observed daily during the summer season.

      You might want to check the meaning of the term "dingbatter." Philip wrote nice blog about it September 18, 2011 - look in the archives of this blog.

      The comment made to your son was about a behavior - crossing a street while not paying full attention. Apparently your son has learned to make judgements about people based not on behavior but on physical traits and appearance. Which you then chose to amplify here. The Sterling family, is it? May your manners some day match your name.

    2. Anonymous4:39 PM

      I am a dingbatter that visits Ocracoke as many times as possible all year long. Love the friends that I have made there. Cheers, PA dingbatter.

  7. Anonymous8:43 AM

    I do apologize for speaking up for the disenfranchised octopi of the world. I was only hoping to present another voice, from the marine life, the Intelligent marine, at that and perhaps with the intelligence comes feelings. The hurt feelings of the octopus that had his home snatched from him and the " I can't breathe" experience because he was out of the ocean. I felt his pain.In an effort to do so I commented and singled out Amy. She was everyman. I hurt her feelings too and for that I am sorry. those not of like mind resort to vitriol and attack the messenger and not discuss the points presented in the argument set forth. The glossy magazines produced by the realty companies marketing OBX often feature the very beaches that are suffering from the yearly shell collecting. Peerhaps the average person never thought about it but Scientists are Now studying it. Does it really take a PhD to come to the conclusion?? If nothing else I hope others reseach the impact of shell collecting and the Marine Life in the ocean. Next time people go to the beach they can always bring the shells back to the shore.