Mia Underwood is an eighth-grade student at Olympic Peninsula Academy in Sequim.
Mia, 13, and her family went on a 10-day vacation on Vancouver Island recently. The family explored different parts of the island, including a three-night stay at a relative’s house where they saw black bears, humpback whales, porpoises, seals, eagles and herons. They also went swimming and jumping off boulders at the Kennedy River and walked the Brady Beach in Bamfield.
Emily Underwood, Mia’s mother, has an aunt (Jackie Carmichael) who is editor/publisher of Westerly News in Ucluelet, B.C. Carmichael asked Mia to write an article for the newspaper about her experience at the Ucluelet Aquarium.
That article is printed below:
“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 to 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 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!”
Everyone has a story and now they have a place to tell it. Verbatim is a first-person column that introduces you to your neighbors as they relate in their own words some of the difficult, humorous, moving or just plain fun moments in their lives. It’s all part of the Gazette’s commitment as your community newspaper. If you have a story for Verbatim, contact editor Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.