Alien 12 is a larval Long-Arm Octopus (Macrotritopus defilippi). It was the largest larval specimen I’ve ever found with a head & body about the size of a grape, and it’s arm span the size of my outstretched hand. On this night, I had no idea of the surprise I was about to get. Normally, I’m far out in the ocean, several miles from shore, where the water is at least a thousand meters deep. But in this location, I had no operational logistics (i.e., no boat was willing to drop me off in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night and let me drift around for a few hours). So I did what I call a “poor-man’s blackwater dive”. Instead of going miles out into the deep, I find an area close to shore where there’s an underwater cliff down into the abyss. I note the current, and take a compass reading off the cliff face, and venture out into the blackness where the deep water creatures may get pushed up the face of the wall on an incoming tide. And on this night, it worked! I already knew that the incoming tide was pushing me back towards the wall, so with every other subject that night, if my lights caught sight of the vertical wall, I abandoned it and swam back out into the blackness according to my compass. But this beauty was far too perfect to abandon!
As we neared the wall, the water current caused both me and the octopus to ascend to ~5m depth, and I prepared to get pushed over the top of the wall towards the shallow reef. As we approached ~3m depth with a rubbly reef directly below, something remarkable happened – perhaps the most important moment in it’s life. For the very first time, it touched the seafloor. Very cautiously, it reached down with one arm, and quickly recoiled in suspense, as the current continued to push us both towards the shallow lagoon. And then it happened – in a great leap of faith, it grabbed onto the seafloor, and instinctually changed colors to match the rubble. I fired as many shots as I could to document this momentous occasion, but it quickly buried itself under the sand, and I never saw it again. This once-in-a-lifetime process is called settling, whereby a larval-stage creature has completed it’s metamorphosis, and is ready to begin the next stage of it’s life as an adult once it “smells” the right environment using chemical cues in the water. It’s likely that I’ll never again be so lucky to witness this moment in any species in the wild. Now an adult, it will live the rest of it’s life in sandy/muddy environments, where it is an expert at burrowing. Scuba divers who enjoy “muck diving” sometimes find them sticking their heads up for a better view, but they most often retreat under the sand once we get 4-5m away.
For printing, we offer the Aliens as squares on either aluminum or canvas, but they are customizable into other shapes if your design plan requires it. You can purchase this luxury wall art online in standard sizes, but if you’d like to discuss a custom crop or size, please contact one of our design consultants at the art gallery. Perhaps our most popular arrangement for Aliens is a grouping of three of our 15″ x 15″ aluminums, but I encourage you to discuss the size & shape of your project’s wall with one of our design consultants, who will help you develop an amazing contemporary art installation that blurs the lines between natural beauty and scientific fascination. Alien 12 is available up to a maximum size of 54″.