Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Octopus Alert

Wollongong Harbor
Our winter school holiday ended and I spent the day with the boys on my own while Sam endured 7 hours of meetings during a teacher 'planning' day.  I theoretically would feel sorry for him, except for the fact that at his school he has free access to a fancy espresso machine, an object I covet deeply.  Endless, needless meetings are much easier to cope with when you have a warm cuppa in hand, no?

Instead of heading to our usual tidepool spot by Old Man's Pool, we ventured to the harbour.  The tide was relatively low and I walked out onto some rocks to get a picture of a nearby pelican.  Jackson followed me out onto the rocks and immediately spotted an octopus.

He has an incredibly keen eye for wildlife; he spotted the only other octopus we've seen here as well.  As you can see, its camouflage works wonderfully with the sandy ocean floor and it is only visible when the orange underside of the tentacles can be seen.

It seems as if no outing in Australia is complete without the very real possibility of a poisonous animal lurking around the next corner--I immediately looked to make sure it wasn't the deadly blue-ringed octopus.
image source
The electric blue rings on this octopus are normally not visible but flash brightly when provoked.  There is no antidote for these gorgeous creatures' venom; the only treatment to avoid death is immediate pressure on the wound and then being placed on artificial respiration while the venom runs its course--not exactly how I strive to create a memorable day out with my kids.

After mentally checking the 'Won't Kill My Kid' box in the trusty and voluminous Official Good Parent Checklist I store in head, Jackson stuck out his hand to greet the octopus, who reached out its tentacle in return.

Now, I have to make an ugly confession.  As we were admiring the octopus, I couldn't help but think of the mouthwatering octopus and surf clams with udon noodle salad recipe I had just seen on SBS' Island Feast with Peter Kuruvita.  Before I leave Australia, I'd absolutely love to cook fresh octopus for dinner--and yes, I felt guilty because the octopus is such a bright, clever (albeit tasty) creature.

By this time, a small crowd of kids gathered around, and they proceeded to spend the next two hours scrambling on the rocks, problem-solving and strategizing different ways to catch the octopus.

The kids had the time of their lives, and so did I--definitely one of the highlights of the year, and the fun stopped only because of the eventual need to get home and have some lunch.  If you're keeping track, the official score is Octopus: 1, Kids: 0.

My octopus salad recipe will have to wait...for now.

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