- José H. Leal
Blanket Octopus, Black Water, and Linda Iannello
These photos of a rare open-water Blanket Octopus, Tremoctopus violaceus, were taken by Linda Iannello off Palm Beach County, Florida. In the open ocean, lots of open-water, or pelagic, animals move up from deeper water to feed at night. The Blanket Octopus is one such species. Finding and photographing a living one, in this case a five-foot female, is no small feat. Consider this: a SCUBA diver who likes to take photos of marine animals, going out three to five miles off the coast of East Florida in the very dark of night, no bottom in sight, diving between depths of 50 and 100 feet on the very edge of the fast-moving Gulf Stream to photograph creatures in open water. Scary to most of us, right? Well, this is just what Linda and her friends do. Their nocturnal excursions, known as blackwater dives, take them along parts of the Gulf Stream, which can move a SCUBA diver more than seven miles in a 90-minute dive.
The encounter with the female Blanket Octopus was pure happenstance. Photographing the gentle creature posed an immediate challenge, as the divers usually don’t see larger animals, and Linda’s camera gear was set up for small, inch-long subjects. “The female Blanket Octopus literally bumped into one of the divers,” said Linda. “Startled, she unfolded her tentacles, and I knew right away what she was. Interestingly, a lot of those blackwater animals are seasonal, and the Paper Nautilus [Argonauta argo] and Blanket Octopus seem to appear between January and March,” she added. “As far as we know, this is the first adult female Blanket Octopus seen on Southeast Florida blackwater dives. And I have done more than 150 of these dives in a four-year period!” Linda’s beautiful images of blackwater animals, including lots of mollusks, can be found on her web site at lindaiphotography.com. Linda has also co-authored the elegant and informative book “Blackwater Creatures – A Guide to Southeast Florida Blackwater Diving,” which can be purchased at local dive shops and at blackwatercreatures.com.