Worst-Case Wednesday: How to Escape From a Giant Octopus

Posted by Jade Gilmartin
Although most Octopuses look friendly and cute, and small ones probably are, there are also giant octopuses to consider. Although it is very rare, if you are in the water which they call home, they may attack. This could be because they want to eat you, or simply because they would like a hug.

Either way, it is a good idea to be prepared. Even if they do just want a cuddle, their beaks are sharp and their suckers are a little clingy (for general relationship advice see The Survival Handbook: Breakups) so it is a good idea to know how to detach them and escape from their clutches.
1. Pull away quickly. In many cases, a human can escape from the grasp of a small-to-medium sized octopus by just swimming away. Propel yourself forward to create a pulling pressure on the octopus’s arms. If you cannot get away, or if you feel yourself being pulled back, continue to the next step.
2. Do not go limp. Octopi are naturally curious and, if strong enough, will check to see if you are a food item before letting you go. Do not act passively, or you may be bitten or quickly enveloped by the octopus’s web, a flexible sheath used to trap prey. Once you are caught in a “web over”, escape will be extremely difficult. However, octopi tire easily, so continue to put pressure on the arms by attempting to swim away. The octopus may decide to let you go rather than bring you in for a closer look.
3. Prevent the octopus’s arms from wrapping around your arms. Initially, the octopus will secure itself to a rock or coral formation and reach out to grab you with just one or two arms. Once it has a film grip on you, it will move you towards its mouth (called a “beak”) by transferring you to the next sucker up the arm. Do not allow the first two octopus arms to pin your own arms to your sides, or you will have little chance of fighting it off.
4. Peel the suckers from your body. Do this like peeling up a bath mat. Once you have loosened one of the octopus’s arms, give it a spear, raft, surfboard, or other object to latch on to. Work quickly.
5. Detach the octopus from its anchor. Octopi prefer to be anchored to a fixed object, and may swim away once dislodged.
6. Turn somersaults in the water. If you have detached the octopus from its mooring but are still being held, turn your body in circles in the water to irritate it into releasing you.
7. Swim towards the surface. Octopi dislike air intensely and will release you once they break the surface. Continue to peel the octopus’s suckers from your body as you swim.