On one occasion, while on a dive with a researcher examining sponges, she suddenly sensed that something was behind her. Curious sea lions were circling and checking them out. “I would turn, and the sea lion would be right here,” says Gray, noting that the other researcher, completely focused on the sponges below, never saw them. During a dive, “science can really take your focus,” says Gray, so it’s essential to have a team looking out for you.
On another occasion, while collecting sponges with a researcher, “we saw a movement at our knees,” says Gray. Climbing up the undersea wall near them, wrapping its arms around the sponges, was the most enormous octopus the pair had ever seen. Giving it space, the octopus made itself red, “doing all the things it can do to say ‘my space,'” says Gray. The two watched in awe as the Pacific giant octopus climbed back down the wall and retreated under a rock. “It was very thrilling for us,” says Gray.
She also fondly recalls close encounters, while keeping a lookout in the boat for divers in the water below, with a young grey whale bobbing up and down.