If you happen to get a glimpse of Paul Allen’s M/Y Octopus in port, it’s hard to ignore. At 414-feet long, it is one of the world’s largest and most recognizable yachts. Launched in 2003, Octopus is a private vessel that is regularly loaned out for exploration projects, scientific research initiatives and rescue missions.
Since he was a young boy, Allen has been captivated by the idea of exploring the sea. Octopus was inspired by recollections of Jacques Cousteau’s underwater adventures and a curiosity about what lies beneath the ocean’s surface.
Allen has called Octopus “less a Bentley than a Range Rover,” to describe how it was built to explore the oceans, accommodate state-of-the-art equipment and carry crews of scientists. It is outfitted with a 10-person commercial-class scientific exploration submarine called Pagoo which can dive for up to eight hours, and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that the crew has dubbed Octo ROV. The ROV can descend 8,843 feet and contains a broadcast-quality video camera that is used to capture underwater footage, which is often donated for use in documentary films. Recent projects include collaborating on Google Earth’s “Explore the Ocean” feature, helping Discovery Science Channel capture footage for a documentary to study the effects of nuclear detonation on the marine environment and loaning Octopus to the Royal Navy in an effort to recover the culturally iconic bell from the wreckage of the HMS Hood.
In March of 2015, Allen and his team of researchers located sunken Japanese World War II battleship Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea off the coast of the Philippines using the Octo ROV. Musashi, and her sister ship Yamato, were one of the two largest and most technologically impressive battleships in naval history. That same year in August, Octo ROV successfully recovered the bell of the battlecruiser HMS Hood. Once restored, the bell serve as a memorial for the 1,415 lives lost when the ship was sunk.
Octopus is a member of Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER), a voluntary group ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange quick and easy assistance for anyone in distress at sea. Octopus has assisted on several occasions in recent years, including an air and sea search in the waters of Palau looking for missing police officers and their pilot.