Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Great" Barracuda




Those of you who know me well, know that I have an odd fascination/fear/respect of sharks. I study them, read about them, learn as much as I can about them. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for the species, and I think they're fascinating. I've only seen 2 sharks (in the ocean/Gulf) before a race, and thankfully I haven't been eaten (yet).

But I'm still afraid of them...

And my sister jokingly reminds me that I'm "more likely to get hit by lightning while riding a lawnmower, than I am at getting eaten by a shark."

I don't know about that, as I don't spend much time riding lawn mowers in thunderstorms. But I do swim in the ocean quite a bit.

Additionally, I know there are lots of other scary things in the water - but for me, the shark trumps the lot. Especially bull sharks (they can swim in freshwater... Freshwater!!!), Great White, Oceanic Whitetip, and Tiger sharks. And a few others as well... I know, I know - again my "rational self" versus my "irrational self".

The rational side of me proclaims that, "yes - sharks are out there, but they're more afraid of me than I am of them. Like spiders. And I like spiders. Most spiders."

The irrational side of me, however, exclaims, "I look like a big, fat, juicy seal in a wetsuit. And I will be eaten."

For the most part though, I love ocean swims (hey, I've done the "big wave thing and finally have them figured out, to a certain extent), and while I know the sharks are there, my love of triathlon, swimming, and racing supersedes my fear of sharks.

Hurrah - I've survived thus far!

Well - imagine my surprise/shock/horror, when I was flipping channels after climbing into bed - and I came across Animal Planet. As a rule, I don't like AP (too many cute critters getting eaten, while the predators gnash their teeth... "Meerkat Manor" being the worst. NEVER name wild creatures... when you do, you form emotional attachment to them. So when they get devoured, it's that much more difficult. And let's be honest, who hasn't shed a tear or two while watching AP. Avoid at all costs, is my idea...), but was drawn in at the immediate mention of "Florida".

I live in Florida.


I was hoping they would talk about sharks - heck, I'm used to sharks.

But no, oh no, the topic of conversation was "The Great Barracuda."

And they live off the coast of Florida and populate the Gulf.


The show started off with a lady jumping off a dock to clean a boat, and getting half her arm bitten off. Lovely!

And at the most recent commercial break, there was an eccentric looking-fellow who laughed manically, while proclaiming, "I'd take a Great White Shark any day over a Great Barracuda."

Thanks dude.

So - I "Wikipediad" the Great Barracuda. Turns out they grow up to 6 feet in length, tend to roam as individuals or in packs, are ambush predators, are very fast in the water, have a gelatinous substance on their skin - which makes them glide faster through the water (up to 30 mph), and are "voracious predators".

And, they've been spotted following swimmers and divers. Excellent!

Granted, the show is only half way over - but I would rather turn off the TV and head for bed, lest I discover something ELSE very scary.

Then again, I'll probably miss the part in the show where the biologists discuss how wonderful the Great Barracuda truly is. You know what I'm talking about: The Barracuda won't attack unless provoked, they have a great relationship with other fish on the coral, they are vital to the fishy-hierarchy, etc etc etc, yadda yadda yadda.

That's okay - thanks, but I'm not going to risk it. I saw "Finding Nemo", and was horrified at what happened in the beginning. You know... when Coral and the 399 eggs get, ah, er, (devoured) by the mean barracuda. Talk about a great way to start a movie (please please please note the sarcasm folks)! I personally think that the Pixar people could have made their point a lot better without having Marlin's family get eaten. Let me tell you something - me and a lot of other little kids were fighting to hold back tears. (Perhaps a few adults too).

So next time I venture a toe, foot, or body into the Gulf, believe me - I'll not only be looking out for sharks. But Great Barracudas as well.

What's next? Dolphins?

No - I like dolphins.

Perhaps biologists will spot the "Charcharadon Tabbithias", an oddly-striped kitty shark. Looks like this (sort of). BEWARE! Happy swimming!


Ness said...

I grew up on the ocean and have seen a LOT of barracuda. They are scary looking, but I've never seen one attack and only heard of one bite - which wasn't even that large. They like shiny silver things and confuse them for little fish, so as long as your not digging around on a coral reef looking to pick a fight with one, and you're not wearing shiny jewelry, you can probably stick to your shark fear. A barracuda is not going to kill you, it'll just take a little bite :)
I too, harbor the irrational ocean fear sometimes though, so I hear you on that one!

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Hi Ness,
Thanks for the comment - I actually did stay up late enough to see the conclusion. As with most AP shows, the second half is devoted to explaining how the "particular" critter really isn't all that bad. And believe me, I don't plan on wearing any shiny jewelry while digging around coral reefs any time soon! And I don't plan on going after one any time soon - would be kind of cool to swim that fast, if even for short bursts of time, though. Yep - I'll just stick to my shark fear. But hey - as long as there are other people in the water with me, my chances of getting picked off are significantly less (can you gell I've given this a lot of thought?) Meaning I should swim my butt as fast as I freakin' can out of the water during a race. Don't want to be the "lone" swimmer picked off! I think the fear of ocean, stems from a deeper fear of the unknown or things I can't see. I don't like dark places, and I prefer to know what's around me. Again - as long as I'm with someone else, though, it's not quite as bad. When I was a little kid and had to make a trip into the basement, I would always drag the poor cat with me. Strength in numbers! But yeah, you're right - the Barracuda isn't all that bad. Was a bit mean in "Finding Nemo" though. Sniff. Have a great day!

Wil said...

Oh my GOD you're hilarious. I can't believe I haven't found your blog until now. Your site is really great! One of these days I'll have to have an ocean swim...