Jacinta Shackleton, a marine biologist had a “rare and once in a lifetime​” encounter with the rare and stunning blanket octopus off the coast of Australia this month.
She was snorkeling around the reef near Lady Elliott Island, located off the coast of Queensland when she spotted the rainbow-hued creature, capturing footage of the octopus twirling through the waters around the Great Barrier Reef.

Shackleton, also a videographer and photographer, has been capturing wildlife in the Great Barrier Reef for the past three years as a content creator for Queensland’s Tourism and Events. And on January 6, Shackleton posted on Instagram that she has spotted the elusive octopus while snorkeling. 

Shackleton told the Guardian, “When I first saw it, I thought it could have been a juvenile fish with long fins, but as it came closer, I realized it was a female blanket octopus and I had this overwhelming sense of joy and excitement. I kept yelling through my snorkel, ‘it’s a blanket octopus!’ I was so excited I was finding it difficult to hold my breath to dive down and video it.”

“Seeing one in real life is indescribable, I was so captivated by its movements. It was as if it was dancing through the water with a flowing cape. The vibrant colors are just so incredible, you can’t take your eyes off it, Shackelton told the outlet. “I’ve truly never seen anything like it before and don’t think I ever will again in my life.”

Shackleton also told the Bundaberg Now, “The colors in her cape were incredible and it was fascinating to watch the way she moved through the water. Surely a once-in-a-lifetime encounter for me, so grateful!”

The sighting was of a female blanket octopus and although Shackleton did not share its size, females can grow up to six feet long. Males, on the other hand are just about the size of a walnut, which experts believe is because it dies shortly after mating. The female usually weighs 40,000 times more than the male.

First discovered in 1963, the marine animal gets its name from sheets of webbing that stretch between some of their arms. And it will stretch its arms out to create a blanket-like silhouette in the hopes of scaring away predators. Research shows that a male blanket octopus has not been reported seen or observed since 2002.

Blanked Octopus spend most of their time floating in the open ocean, which is why an up and close personal encounter is so rare.

Watch the amazing video footage below taken this week!

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