When Down Under, stay out of the water!

Usually when travelling in Australia, I am mindful of the fact that there could be dangerous spiders in my wardrobe or under my bed. Perhaps even a venomous snake or two hiding in the bushes as I walk past into town for lunch. However, it seems to me that the safest place to be in Australia is on dry land, as although the world’s largest island has beautiful beaches and warm waters, you need to be alert to what lurks below…

Great White Sharks have no natural predators in the sea and are the largest species of shark in existence. Their presence around the waters of Australia has left many people fearing to go in the water, as these sharks also sometimes bite and sink small boats. Most victims of shark bites die from blood loss rather than drowning, as scientists suppose that victims can escape the first bite of a great white shark and emerge to safety (albeit with the probable loss of a limb).

Blue Ringed Octopuses can be found around the east coast of Australia. Faced with danger, the octopus’s first instinct is to flee. If the threat persists, the octopus will go into a defensive stance, and show its blue rings. Only if an octopus is cornered, and touched, will a person be in danger of being bitten and envenomated. The venom can result in nausea, respiratory arrest, heart failure, severe and sometimes total paralysis, blindness, and can lead to death within minutes if not treated. Death, if it occurs, is usually from suffocation due to paralysis of the diaphragm.

Stonefish stings in Australia can cause envenomation and death if not treated. The stonefish is one of the most venomous fish in the world and when stepped on by a human forces venom into the foot. Most stonefish stings occur as a result of stepping on the creature while it is less common for the fish to sting when it is picked up. Stonefish stings can occur on the beach, not just in the water, since stonefish can survive out of the water for up to 24 hours.

Saltwater Crocodiles (or “Salties”) live in marine environments, such as mangrove swamps, estuaries, deltas, lagoons, and lower stretches of rivers. They have the broadest distribution of any modern crocodile, ranging from the eastern coast of India throughout most of Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Of all the crocodilians, the saltwater crocodile has the strongest tendency to treat humans as prey, and has a long history of attacking humans who unknowingly venture into its territory. As a result of its power, intimidating size and speed, survival of a direct predatory attack is unlikely if the crocodile is able to make direct contact.

Box Jellyfish are known as the “sucker punch of the sea” not only because their sting is rarely detected until the venom is injected, but also because they are almost transparent. Once a tentacle of the box jellyfish adheres to skin, it pumps nematocysts with venom into the skin, causing the sting and agonizing pain. Flushing with vinegar is used to deactivate undischarged nematocysts to prevent the release of additional venom. Removal of additional tentacles is usually done with a towel or gloved hand, to prevent secondary stinging.

Have you ever encountered any of these dangerous marine creatures on your Australian travels?


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