The Great Barracudas of Great Thatch

The other day I wrote a blog entry about getting stung by a scorpion on the Island of Great Thatch in the British Virgin islands. That reminded me of another incident that occurred there, similar in nature to the scorpion incident.

Hillside (photo by Don Hebert) from the Book St. Thomas (USVI)

When we first arrived on Great Thatch for our camping expedition, we spent the day snorkeling and exploring, mostly snorkeling, because our land exploration was limited by thick bush and steep mountainsides.

Between the two mountains that make up the island, there is a low-lying area with a large salt pond, which is about the only place on the island apart from the shoreline that invites exploration. On the southern side (facing St. John) there is a large calm and well protected bay, which is the recipient of a great deal of flotsam, washed up along the shore by the prevailing winds and currents.

(Hillside photo by Don Hebert from the Book St. Thomas USVI)

Exploring that shoreline, you’ll see all kinds of interesting drift plastic with some bearing labels or other indications of their world wide origins. Rumor has it that bales of illicit drugs have been found here.

The bay itself is very shallow in places and full of reef with some coral heads even extending above the surface at times of low tide. At the time, reef was extremely colorful and very much alive.

On the seaward side of the very shallow area, we could see what appeared to be the top of a mast, which came up almost to the water’s surface. We anchored, the boat, donned our gear and dove in to investigate.

As we approached the wreck we were joined by not one, but by some very large barracudas, most with open mouths exposing big sharp teeth. They were big! When seen though a dive mask, which magnifies what you see,  these villainous looking denizens of the deep looked even bigger! And when seen are through a dive mask by someone who never saw a barracuda underwater before they looked even BIGGER.  The three or four cudas that had come by, no doubt simply to satisfy their curiosity, became a giant school of potential attackers. Needless to say I, and my equally unsophisticated partners were chased out of the water and back aboard the boat.

I didn’t go back to dive that cove for many years and when I did, I could no longer find the wreck.

Now, of course, I now know that I was never in any real danger from the barracudas, (Read my barracuda blog entry)

Nonetheless, I, to this day, I can’t seem to completely get rid of that feeling of menace brought about by the barracudas of Great Thatch. Moreover, it seems that this unexplainable, in the sunshine of logic, trepidation that I have about Great Thatch barracuda is shared to some extent by two friends of mine who are both experienced spear fishermen and who I respect for their confidence and abilities in the underwater realm. These two guys, Ed Gibney and Paul Schneider, aren’t even afraid of sharks and they will even dispute ownership of a speared fish with a hungry predator – up to a point, that is.

When relating the incident to Ed, he remarked that the barracudas in that particular bay were unusually large and quite plentiful and that at times they made him feel uneasy. My friend, Paul, who often kayaks and dives with Ed, said basically the same thing and admitted that there is something ominous about those big barracudas that almost always meets when diving that particular reef.

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