Stranded octopus, rescued in rare sighting off the North Oregon Coast at Cannon Beach

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – A curious and heartwarming situation on the northern Oregon coast occurred early Thursday when the Haystack Rock Outreach Program (HRAP) in Cannon Beach had to help an octopus stranded on land. Not only was it a rare sighting that drew a large crowd, but it was a beautiful interaction between the human aquatic beast. (Photo courtesy of Ben Meek/HRAP)


It was around 9:30 a.m., said HRAP communications coordinator Mylasia Miklas, when they received a call about a giant Pacific octopus stuck around Haystack Rock. He was in that little sandy area between the main Haystack and the Needles, wading around trying to get out. It was something unusual, she told Oregon Coast Beach Connectio


“We don’t usually see that,” Miklas said. “It’s pretty rare to see a giant Pacific octopus, so having a sighting or situation like this is definitely a once in a lifetime thing


Very quickly, two HRAP members showed up: Lisa Habecker, who is a volunteer and education coordinator; and Rocky Shore lead performer Jolene Magee. They went from science educators to lifesaver


“They ended up going out there and assessing the situation, and they noticed the octopus was kind of being pushed ashore by the waves and having a bit of a hard time trying to get down to deeper water,” said Miklas said. “And at the time this guy was spotted, we weren’t sure how long he had been out of the water. Pacific octopuses can live out of water for around 20-30 minutes, so since we didn’t know how long he was actually on the sand, we definitely wanted to work as quickly as possible to get him back into deeper water.

Courtesy of Lisa Habecker/HRAP

Habecker and Magee took a few moments – it really wasn’t long – to assess the situation, watch the waves and control the crowd a bit. It was, of course, one of those moments of digitally capturing the Oregon Coast for the public.

The pair ended up getting a sandwich board to try and fend him off in the waves.

“And then it didn’t really work well, so instead they kind of used their legs as a kind of blockade and gently gave the octopus at least two good little pushes, and he was able to come back to the deeper waters,” Miklas said.

Often, situations like these on the Oregon or Washington coast indicate that a sea creature is in some way distressed, in poor health or injured. Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case here, Miklas said, revealed by Trippy Science of Cephalopods.

“He wasn’t really distressed,” Miklas said. “It looks like it was pushed by the waves and was struggling to get back into deeper water. Pacific octopuses possess the ability to change color when stressed or distressed, or when they show aggression, and when our two interpreters struggled to get it back in the water, it didn’t change color or show any signs of aggression or distress from the interaction.

Suffice to say, the octo-gunned little guy was pretty cool about it. They’re extremely intelligent, so it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that the octopus knew someone was trying to help it.

Overall, the whole interaction lasted about four or five minutes. It wasn’t long before the rescue was successful and the mysterious visitor to Haystack Rock resumed his merry way to the depths.