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'Never felt so magical:' B.C. 'octopus whisperer's' close-knit bond with species lands her spot in James Cameron docuseries

"There was something that was calling me to get in and go down there," says Vancouver Island's Krystal Janicki about her impromptu dive into the Pacific Ocean

A B.C. woman has formed a tightly-knit bond with a sea species cloaked in mystery and misunderstanding dwelling off Canada's west coast. By sharing her sea experiences, she showcases the giant Pacific octopus as the complex creatures they are.

Krystal Janicki, a contract painter hailing from Vancouver Island says a drive along the sea on the way home from work led her to jump into the Pacific, and she's never looked back since.

"There was something that was calling me to get in and go down there," Janicki tells Yahoo News Canada.

Janicki's renowned bond with the Pacific cephalopods was recently showcased in the National Geographic series Secrets Of The Octopus — produced by James Cameron and narrated by actor Paul Rudd.

Janicki says still donning her work boots, she was driving home from a job as a commercial painter about nine years ago, when something nudged her to pull over and jump into the ocean. Fighting the waves and feeling them bash against her face, Janicki says, "I never felt more alive."

The very next day, she signed up for a scuba diving course to better understand why she felt so alive in the water and what was to see beneath the surface.

It wasn't until her 60th dive that Janicki says octopus entered the conversation.

"I kinda hoped I would never find one — I thought they were weird and slimy," Janicki said.

She says spotting her first cephalopod — a term for the group including octopus, squid and cuttlefish — around her 60th dive that "a switch went off in my brain."

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing. They seemed super kind and curious and from that moment on, I told myself, 'I have to find octopus,'" said Janicki.

Her frequent and often intimate encounters with the Pacific eight-legged giants earned her the nickname 'octopus whisperer' by other islanders.

B.C. scuba diver Krystal Janicki takes a moment with a Giant Pacific Octopus. (Credit: Maxwel Hohn)
B.C. scuba diver Krystal Janicki takes a moment with a Giant Pacific Octopus. (Credit: Maxwel Hohn)

Giant Pacific octopus are smart, complex creatures, with distinct personalities and their IQ out-measuring humans in some areas, Janicki explains.

One of Janicki's most memorable encounters with the species was on a dive off the coast of Campbell River, B.C.

She says they were nearly 70-feet down when one of her fellow divers gave the hand gesture of octopus in area, and sure enough, there was a Pacific giant nestled among the coral.

"I dropped down to her level and presented my hand, and right off the bat, she was a little grabby," said Janicki. "I backed off a bit to let her calm down, and went down to retrieve a go-pro I had dropped prior to the encounter. When I turned back to face her, I found she had swam from the rock and attached herself to me — all nine feet of her."

B.C. scuba diver Krystal Janicki gets up close with a giant Pacific octopus. (Credit: Eiko Jones)
B.C. scuba diver Krystal Janicki gets up close with a giant Pacific octopus. (Credit: Eiko Jones)

Eight minutes later, Janicki says the octopus had nearly completely engulfed her — her eight arms wrapped around her own arms and hands.

"Several of the other divers swam up and wanted to encounter her, but she just pushed them away with her suckers as if to say 'no thank-you,'" said Janicki.

She says she could see the octopus's eyes scanning, eventually locking in on hers.

I felt my eyes starting to well up and I told myself 'I'm not going to get overwhelmed by an octopus.'Krystal Janicki

Janicki says she put her face right beside of the octopus and could feel every breath she took as they drifted in tandem on the underwater current.

"It was such a magical experience," Janicki recalls.

Janicki says Adam Geiger, one of directors of the docuseries Secrets of the Octopus had travelled to the Campbell River waters to shoot for the project, as the giant Pacific octopus are the largest in the world and there was to be a notable segment in the series to be shot in the region.

Her name had come up in conversation at the local dive shop when asked who had expertise in local waters, and her "luck" for finding the species, Janicki explains. She says she conducted several test dives with Geiger.

Coming in off a shoot in warmer Australian waters, she says the chilly Pacific proved too much for Geiger and a local cinematographer Maxwel Hohn was enlisted to shoot for the project.

Two weeks later, Janicki says she got a call from Geiger saying, "Hey, this is Adam, I'm doing a series called Secrets of the Octopus and I want to use you and the connection you have with the octopus and see if you are willing."

"I was stunned and thought to myself 'why is this trades worker who doesn't have much to her name being asked to show a part of her soul to the world?'" Janicki said.

She says if she could tell her 6-year-old self anything, it would be to "dive sooner."

Janicki leaves a parting message urging others to explore the world around them and to learn more about what surrounds us.

The Secrets of the Octopus is available to stream on Disney+ in Canada and on Hulu in the U.S.