Booooorn freeeeee!

Everyone start singing now, this is a heartwarming story. Sid is an octopus in the Portobello Aquarium. Sid has the clever octopus habit of escaping — he disappeared for days, and was later discovered hiding in a seawater drain. So what is the aquarium to do with the sneaky fellow?

Set him free!

Isn't that nice?

(Just because I'm cynical that way, though, I will point out two less happy reasons. They're going to capture another octopus before they release him, which means Sid is going to have to change his name to Barabbas. The really cynical side of me notes that the aquarium managers also know that cephalopods tend to be short-lived, and they may be thinking that they'll need to replace him soon anyway, so they're getting some good PR out of his retirement.)

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Well, I doubt if if they'll make a movie out of this. No sex interest. Now if he was escaping to return to his long lost love in the sea it might work.

Sid is going to have to change his name to Barabbas

That's a funny name, but I would call him Octo-dini (octopus + Houdini)

I remember a discussion with one of the people working at that aquarium a year or so ago. It isn't a one-off case, they regularly release their octopus-in-residence if it gets too good at escaping. I got the impression they're weren't so worried about cephalopod lifespan as much as saving the effort required to keep a good escaper in its tank.

I knew of at least one researcher there ten years ago who didn't appreciate finding the octopus in the middle of the corridor early one morning.

By Callum McKenzie (not verified) on 10 Jan 2009 #permalink

I had the same thought, first thing, wondering how close he is to the end of his lifespan.

But I can think of another reason to release the escapologists. Octopuses can learn by watching. You don't want the whole group escaping at once if you have several.

By Samantha Vimes (not verified) on 10 Jan 2009 #permalink

these stories always remind me of The Twilight Zone episodes where you have a human confined somewhere by aliens or something and trying to get out.

also, they make me realize that I have no idea how cephalopods breathe or survive out of water.

Yes, this is an ongoing thing there. I have posted before about being told 20 or more years ago on a visit there that the octopus tank lid had not been secured and in the morning there was a wet path from there to the tank across the room housing the octopus's food, crabs. The crab tank was empty but the octopus was back home looking replete.

As you go in the door of the aquarium the octopus tank is the first thing you see. It is at least 6feet high and I vividly remember going on a school visit as a kid and being confronted by an adult pacific common octopus sitting hard up against the glass looking out and wearing bright red. I have been hooked on cephalopods ever since.

By Peter Ashby (not verified) on 10 Jan 2009 #permalink

It was after the hand-glider-made-out-of-toilet-rolls debacle that Sid decided to steal a motorcycle and jump the fence.

They're going to capture another octopus before they release him, which means Sid is going to have to change his name to Barabbas.

A bible reference? From PZ?

A bible reference? From PZ?

Sure. Why not?

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 11 Jan 2009 #permalink


You will find all the answers to your question (and then some) at

No need to thank me.

By Disciple of "Bob" (not verified) on 11 Jan 2009 #permalink

I've understood from managers of aquaria (in Port Townsend, Seattle, and others) that they don't release specimens back into the wild for fear of introducing disease. It doesn't make sense to me since their water circulates freely to the local sea.
Hey, maybe that could be used as an argument for permanent incarceration of humans, too....…

Busted flat in Portobello, hiding in a drain
He was feeling just as trapped as he could be
Sid escaped from his little tank and tried to make it plain
He’d rather spend his last days in the sea

Five days later, Sid was seen… heading for the door
He didn’t make it, but you know, at least he tried
He saw an open doorway and he knew what it was for
He knew it had to lead to the other side

Freedom's just another word for not much time to live
But better than the drainpipe where he hid
They couldn't make him happy, so they gave what they could give
And it's good enough to do what they just did
Good enough for me, and my octopus, Sid.


Poor Joe; I had to read that Cuttlefish gem to him and I had to sing it, no matter how hard I tried to just recite.

Our joint job just got gutted of its interesting parts and I'm pretty sure the whole works is circling the drain. We went with a couple of friends yesterday to see a creek restoration project that has flourished for nine years and found it had been nearly clear-cut by suddenly zealous maintenance workers. Something Joe's working on had an accurate key quote disowned by its source. (This AM, though, it seems to have been um re-owned.) In short, it's been a rotten couple of days.

We are both laughing like mad. Whew. Thanks, we needed that. The Digital Cuttlefish contributes more to the health of the English-reading public than the whole AMA and all the plumbing of North America combined.

Cuttlefish, OM- Thanks for sharing your poetry!!!!! I always look forward to comments by you.

By Paguroidea (not verified) on 11 Jan 2009 #permalink

quoting the end of the story of the Otago paper:
About 10 years ago, an octopus at the aquarium named Harry - after human escape artist Harry Houdini - escaped from the same tank now occupied by Sid, and was halfway up the steps to the nearby University of Otago marine laboratory when found.

Now we know octopuses are smart, but going to the university?

By Prometevsberg (not verified) on 11 Jan 2009 #permalink

I echo Keri's curiosity. Sid was, according to the story, "making a dash for the door," and Harry was "halfway up the steps." Please, someone, tell us how octopods fare out of water.
And should we be worried?