Your typical doomsday scenario might begin with an apocalyptic swirl of clouds, harrowing images of Guy Fieri, and the transmission of unquestionably hostile radio waves emanating from aliens in outer space. Or, if you live in coastal Wales, the undoing of all life heretofore begins with a good ole' fashion octopus stampede.
Earlier this week, residents of the small coastal village Ceredigion in western Wales were confronted with a group of 25 cephalopods, all of which ambled ashore from the ocean and decided to go for an impromptu scuttle on New Quay beach. The octopus march occurred three nights in a row, prompting chin scratches and apocalyptic musings from local man Brett Stones, who runs a dolphin watching business in the area.
He told the BBC: “It was a bit like an End Of Days scenario. There were probably about 20 or 25 on the beach. I have never seen them out of the water like that.”
The general curiosity of land-roving cephalopods stretched far and wide in the ensuing days, but experts later weighed in, adding scientific heft to the intrigue. Jenny Hofmeister, a postdoctoral scholar at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told National Geographic that the cephalopods could have been forced out of the ocean because of a swelling octopus population.
She also said that recent storms, such as Hurricane Ophelia, may have influenced their march on land, but evidence supporting that stance is anecdotal at best: "There's some anecdotal evidence of animals being susceptible to big storms, but it really hasn't been tested. It's not out of the realm of possibility," she said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jennifer Miller of University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, told Mashable that the octopuses looked “disoriented and washed around," surmising that their breeding rituals were disrupted by recent storms.
Stones, who is wise in the ways of cephalopods and the sea in general, elaborated on the bizarre sight to the Telegraph, saying, "They were coming out of the water and crawling up the beach. I’ve lived here my whole lifetime and have never seen anything like it."
Although possibly telling of a dark omen, the sight of the octopuses didn't send Stones screaming into the darkened waves: he decided to pick up as many as he could and put them back in the ocean, so they could be in a more hospitable environment. Despite his best efforts, though, some of the creatures were found dead on the beach the next morning.
Though weird, the slithering octopuses are a grim reminder that the ocean is vast and horrifying, and what you see on the surface often pales in comparison to what lives at the bottom.
Happy Halloween from Mother Nature!