For filmmaker Victoria Stone, the brush of a gentle tentacle across her lips was "quite nice."
The encounter occurred when Stone and her partner Mark Deeble, who are making a documentary on giant octopuses for the British Broadcasting Corp., were diving in Puget Sound.One of their eight-armed subjects stretched a tentacle and softly touched Stone's lips - the only part of her body not covered by wetsuit.
"It was quite nice," she said. "I could feel one sucker come down, and then the next, and then the next."
The tender meeting was no surprise to the filmmakers, who know the octopus as a good-natured, intelligent creature that has been miscast as a horror film man-hungry villain.
The team also found that octopuses quickly learn to recognize people and react to their presence by swimming excitedly.
"These are not non-feeling, gooey entities," said Brian Baldissin, the zoo's marine education specialist, who has taught Pacific octopuses how to open a plastic container to get at crabmeat inside.
Baldissin and the filmmakers found the animals are adept at negotiating mazes and opening a series of doors that swing in different directions.
"It's very dramatic what they're capable of," Deeble said. "Just from what we've seen, I believe octopuses are on a par with dogs and cats in terms of intelligence."
The film is scheduled for January in the "National Geographic Explorer" series on British and American public television.