Ruth made a special request that I write about Pebbles today. Pebbles is an octopus. We watched her cavort in the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, an aquarium on Sidney’s waterfront. Sidney is a town on a peninsula 25 minutes north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Sidney is near Victoria’s International Airport and a ferry facility that takes people to the Gulf Islands and the Canadian mainland south of the city of Vancouver. Ruth was definitely enchanted by Pebbles. So was the entire staff at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea.
The young woman who sold tickets that day began talking about Pebbles immediately. She told me with considerable animation that Pebbles is a solitary animal that sleeps a lot, feeds on live crabs, and is quite intelligent. Pebbles knows what not to touch in a tank that allows her to cross over to another tank while admirers watch her move rather quickly from below. She plays with Lego pieces and genially tries to pull humans into her tank.
Ruth and I entered what we had been told is a small aquarium, but we found it much larger than expected. Compared to the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park it’s small, but size is relative. It’s large enough to have 160 species of Salish Sea marine life including Pebbles, who routinely entertains visitors, especially children. If you get a chance to visit the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea next year, Pebbles won’t be there. She will be released back into the Salish Sea where she came from in about 2 months.
The Shaw Center for the Salish Sea really holds its many volunteers. We met Lesley, who has been there for 3 years, and Celie, a 9 year volunteer. Celie came over and asked Ruth and me if we wanted to encounter sea life in the touch pool. We did. It was memorable. We had been in this center for mere minutes when Lesley came over and told us that Pebbles was especially active this Monday and did we want to watch her? We did. As we observed her, Pebbles climbed all over both tanks, ate, and played with her toys. Pebbles is the 10th octopus to reside in this aquarium. If she breeds after release, she will die soon thereafter. About the size of a medium dog when we saw her, Pebbles can still grow larger. She has 3 hearts and blue blood and can lay more than 78,000 eggs. Her 8 arms demonstrate her femaleness. Male octopi had suckers only partially up their arms, but females have them all down their arms. Suckers can become detached and regrow. Pebbles, the only octopus here, was a genuine charmer and attracted quite a crowd.
The Shaw Centre has just about every species of animal and fish that resides in the Salish Sea. We observed wolf eels like the one just above that came out from under a rock, jellies, starfish, canary rockfish, anemones, and far more. Microscopes were set up to get close looks at sand dollars and other marine creatures.
There are 10 tourist attractions in or near Sidney including previously visited Butchart Gardens. Ruth is a committed gardener, so she was curious to see what plants were thriving in late October. We intended to go there but spent so much time in Sidney’s aquarium that we never made it to Butchart. Oh, well. We like to have reasons to go back to special places like Vancouver Island, where we will miss Pebbles.