Monday 12 July 2010

Eight legs good

So Paul the Octopus did it! Eight out of eight correct predictions: amazing (it must also be said that equally amazing is the fact that our All Whites - despite the unfortunate name given the location of the competition - remain the only unbeaten team in the entire World Cup football tournament. Despite never actually winning a game).

I can cope with the maths as far as each prediction of the winning team being just 50:50 odds - when we move into the mysterious realms of probability for eight out of eight, however, my innumeracy rises up and defeats me. I know the coin-toss thing is primary school level, but there you go, yet another of life's inscrutables.

I do understand that it's all about chance, of course, that intelligence doesn't come into it - although octopi (I'm much better at Latin than sums) are certainly bright. Possibly even numerate. There's one living in a tank at Kelly Tarlton's here in the city that, until he was rumbled, used to make nocturnal visits across the floor to the big open rock pool where the crayfish were, and help himself to a seafood supper. He was eventually thwarted by a large weight on the glass cover of his tank: shame, really, to smother such initiative.

Not being much of a water-baby, the nearest I've got to an octopus is a plate of calamari - but I did once see a cuttle-fish in the Marine Centre on Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia. It was astonishing. One minute a brown lump on the stones, the next, literally, a pulsating red creature posing and flaunting itself up by the glass - and all it took was a mirror, so it thought it had company.

It would really be something to go to Whyalla, in the Spencer Gulf, when thousands of Giant (60cm) Cuttlefish migrate there to spawn from May to August. Apparently the sea is full of them, the males putting on a fabulous show of constantly-changing patterns and colours. Divers see it all best, but evidently snorkellers can see pretty well too.

The water would be cold this time of year, though, brrr. I may go to my grave with my closest cuttlefish encounter being seeing their backbones washed up on a beach with interesting rocks that's part of the Heysen Trail at the southern end. I met a lady there, collecting them for her two budgies, which ate a couple every week. Interesting choice of snack for an inland bird, eh?

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