In what was otherwise a lovely paddle through the pristine waters off the South Island of New Zealand, a bit of mammal-on-mollusck-on-mammal violence broke out this week, thankfully captured on video. Kyle Mulinder was kayaking with a small group as they encountered a seal chasing an octopus. Delighted, the group watched the chase for a bit, the clear water providing plenty of visibility, until predator and prey dove beneath the kayakers’ line of sight.
That was that, the small group thought. They thought wrong.
“All of a sudden, the show goes quiet, and the seal dives down underwater, and you’re like, ‘Well that was that,’” Mulinder said in an interview. “Then, it comes up toward us, like, ‘Oh, my God, here it comes.’”
In a flash, the seal burst from the water and slapped Mulinder across the face with the (presumably terrified) octopus. The seal released the octopus and dove out of sight. The octopus clung for life to the side of the kayak. Mulinder let out a surprised yelp and stopped paddling. They all caught their breath, a fellow kayaker pried the octopus from Mulinder’s kayak, and the group continued on.
Seals have been known to try to feed divers prey they’ve captured. Could that have been what happened here? Was it a freak accident and Mulinder just paddled into the way of an eternal battle between predator and prey? Or perhaps the seal fired the opening salvo in a coming battle between marine life and humankind, polluters of the seal’s ecosystem?
We may never know.
But we can watch the video Mulinder recorded on his GoPro. Over and over and over again.