On the boat ride out to the reefs at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, Florida, the crew gives you a little introduction to where you are going, what you might expect to see there, and any unusual things to watch for. On my first snorkel dive in the park, they told us about a very large barracuda that was usually in the area. They had a name for the fish (I forget what it was), and they told us he was about five feet long.
Of course, they told us to forget about the fearsome reputation of the barracuda, and simply to enjoy watching him. Even the idea that they strike at shiny objects is greatly exaggerated.
The diving was just great. Among the other fascinating denizens of the reef, I saw a few barracuda, but no five-footers. After I had made a few discoveries and observations, I began just messing around - Wandering aimlessly among the corals, watching a fan worm filtering the passing current.
Unbeknownst to me, some of the other tourists had a different idea of "just messing around." A few people evidently found the large barracuda, and they weren't content to just watch. They began chasing him to arouse a reaction.
So, I just sort-of moseyed around a large brain coral, and suddenly came face-to-fang with a mouthful of teeth, followed by a gigantic silvery fish, followed by three very amused snorkelers.
Maybe it was the foreshortening effect of water and dive mask. Maybe it was just my startlement. Those teeth looked to be about five feet long!