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Tales of exploration with Captain Jannek Olsson
12th June 2023
The 126-metre Lürssen superyacht Octopus is now in the second year of being available for charter with Camper & Nicholsons, which gave rise to an interview with her captain, Jannek Olsson, who retold his journey to the helm of one of the most impressive superyachts in the global fleet.

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OCTOPUS Luxury Motor Yacht for Charter | C&N
126.20m | Lurssen | 2003 (2021)
13 Cabins | 12 Guests | 45 Crew

From: US$ 2,200,000 p/w


Tales of exploration with Captain Jannek Olsson

Delivered in 2003, Octopus originally belonged to the late American business magnate and philanthropist Paul Allen, who was the first to take a superyacht to many of the world’s farthest-flung destinations. With Octopus, Allen spearheaded many research projects and made incredible discoveries, the details of which were often kept under wraps. Now that Octopus is under new ownership and available for charter through Camper & Nicholsons, Captain Jannek Olsson provides a fascinating insight into the operations of this iconic yacht.

You worked for Paul Allen as captain of the 92m Tatoosh and the 126m Octopus. How would you describe the experience?

Having the opportunity to work for Paul Allen was a life-changing experience. It would be difficult to capture the significance of Paul Allen in short terms. As I think he did with many; he changed the way I think about challenges. He was such a sharp yet compassionate man to work for and I truly think he made me better at what I do, and how I approach complex challenges and the associated solutions. Amongst many other things, he taught me to never leave a stone unturned!

Despite being 20 years old, Octopus is one of the most capable explorers. What makes her so exceptional? 

Her construction is unique – she is built for purpose, something I believe a lot of yachts miss. She is a product of Paul Allen’s mind and there is not a day on board where I do not reflect on the legacy of this vessel. She is built to travel and has seakeeping ability I have not seen on any other yacht. Her size and design are perfectly suited to the mission, whether it be grey water holding, ice capability, helicopter facilities, bridge location and layout, fuel capacity, etc, etc. There are so many aspects of her design that make her the ideal platform for exploring the most remote areas of the world.


Helicopter and underwater operations in remote locations are a key component of Octopus’ programme. How challenging can this be?  

The hardest challenge with both underwater and helicopter operations is often the legislative framework required to be able to operate as freely as possible. Permitting can often be convoluted and unclear and at times outright impossible to deal with.

I have always aimed to build relationships with scientific and educational establishments to partner on missions in areas where underwater operations are extremely restricted. We have completed some amazing archeological and scientific missions across the globe over the years and the most successful ones have often been when we worked closely with various local experts, scientists, and archeologists to create a symbiosis that ensures that all parties walk away with valuable experiences and data.

Yachts are just starting to scratch the surface of what is possible. Time will tell if owners and charter clientele will eventually prioritise true exploration over classic yacht cruising. These two can sometimes be merged but true exploration mostly comes at a high cost of mainly time. In most cases, true exploration just can’t be crammed into a standard one-week trip and typically needs to be at the forefront of the priority list if real gains are to be had. 

Under Paul Allen, we had this priority and that is what enabled us to achieve amazing experiences, something which is rarely seen in the yachting world.

Do you have any memorable anecdotes of explorations undertaken while Octopus was under private ownership that you can share? 

The Northwest Passage and Greenland were amazing. Polar bears, large expanses of sea ice, and very interesting ice navigation. Greenland with its dramatic scenery, incredible fishing, and some of the most active glaciers in the world. Travelling through Prince Christian Sound in southern Greenland is an experience I will never forget – this long narrow channel leads you through the southern part of the Greenland continent.

The Eastern Fields between Papua New Guinea and Australia, sitting in 1,500-metres of water, two cables from a reef edge, and an atoll that doesn’t even break the surface. There we would dive with large tuna schools on vertical reef walls plummeting into the deep blue. The sea life was incredible, and it was the best dive I have ever made.

The forest elephants of Gabon were an amazing experience as well. Cruising in Gabon is not the easiest but once you get through the complicated and almost ridiculous clearance and move south to the Loango Lagune and national park, it's all worth it. With gorillas, crocodiles, green mambas, and forest elephants on the beach, you realise that yachts are meant to go where no one else goes!

The sardine run in Port St. Johns is another experience not to miss, the intensity of the sea life mixed with several whale species and seabirds makes this one of the most incredible wildlife experiences on the planet. But it was a challenging experience on so many fronts. The sea conditions at that time of the year are not well suited for leisure cruising and trying to run tenders and dive operations while in dynamic positioning and experiencing 3-5 metre swells and strong winds at times were certainly difficult. The dramatic coastline and the difficult conditions did however add to the overall experience and really clarified the capability of Octopus

Paul Allen was also a passionate maritime historian with a penchant for deep sea observation. Do you have any stories of discoveries that you can share?  

The Musashi discovery – and the expedition that led up to it – is a noteworthy event in Octopus’ history. Vulcan (the privately held company that oversees Allen’s estate) had previously attempted to find the world's largest battleship with a chartered-in vessel, but it was the purchase and operation of the AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) that led to the success of the 2015 mission.

Prior to the mission, our underwater team led by Rob Kraft had spent significant time and effort to try and determine an accurate sinking position. We spent much time comparing backdrops in photographs of the sinking battleship with the distant shoreline of the Sibuyan Sea. There were not many reliable accounts of the sinking position, but with the use of the Octopus AUV we managed to locate a potential wreck site relatively quickly.

The first part of the wreck we found was the bow, we saw it as we ascended over a large bulge of sand (created by the impact of the bow section). It was the chrysanthemum emblem on the Mushashi’s bow that ensured the final ID of the wreck. The feeling of seeing this lost wreck for the first time since it sank was incredible. It was however mixed with a weighing sadness for the loss of life that relates to the battle. 

It was a rare opportunity to be able to hold a memorial ceremony over the wreck for the lost sailors, with the onboard team honouring the lost souls with a minute of silence. The feeling that ran through the vessel on that evening is hard to explain. The mission suddenly had a very real purpose by connecting this maritime gravesite with families of lost sailors on the Japanese mainland. It was a rare feeling of purpose that I will never forget.

Octopus is now in the midst of a two-year world tour and is available for charter with Camper & Nicholsons. What have been the highlights so far?

Our Itinerary has taken us through incredible places like Galapagos, Cocos, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil. A revisit of the vessel to Antarctica produced some memorable time for both crew and guests. Together with Eyos Expeditions, we enjoyed some fantastic wildlife moments on the Antarctic peninsula. It was a great pleasure to be able to show charter guests the wreck of the M/V Explorer at 1100 meters in the Bransfield strait and see the fascination and excitement that this created. This mission was not just for pleasure but also to document the state of the wreck and assess whether fuel oil or other substances was leaking from the wreck. Luckily, she is still in very good condition and there appears to be no environmental effect to her surroundings.

What makes Octopus an ideal charter yacht?

Octopus’ charter success comes from its potential in the exploration cruising segment, with her range, seakeeping potential, underwater exploration capability and tender compliment. With our remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), we can supply experiences that very few yachts can and, with her exceptional seakeeping ability, she can keep guests comfortable and safe in conditions where many other yachts would struggle to maintain comfort. 

She has many operational advantages such as the large hangar and the ability to stage for heli-skiing inside and mountaineering. This makes for good organisation which in turn results in smooth swift operations with no delays. The ability to use sea terraces in combination with zero-speed stabilisers for boarding in poor conditions is a small but often significant capability. The range of tenders means that we can arrange long-range trips in remote areas in full comfort, as well as accommodate guests in close in-ice exploration on small Mk5’s. Function, safety and comfort best describes our tender compliment and strengthens the capability of the mother vessel in far flung areas of the world where most yachts don’t go.

Which areas of the world are you yet to explore with Octopus and where are you particularly keen to visit in the future?

The Ross Sea and Kamchatka is on our to-do list at some point. Kamchatka is rather impossible these days but, if that changes, it would be a great option including Wrangle Island with its polar bear populations and remote serenity. This could in turn link to a Northeast Passage and would be an epic route to do. A revisit to the North Atlantic and a run through the Pacific to the more remote spots is also on the cards. 


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