Another creature that gets a lot of bad press is the 'Great White', more
commonly known as the 'white pointer' shark. In Australia, surfers seem to be
the main targets, although there have been recorded attacks on people just
swimming in waist-deep water. Back in 2004, papers reported that South Australia
was a shark-killing hotspot3. Although in April 2008 there was a fatal shark
attack on a teenage surfer in northern New South Wales, which appears to be the
culmination of a number of non-fatal attacks and shark sightings in the region
over the previous year. Prior to this, the last recorded fatal shark attack in
Australia was on January 7, 2008, when a young woman who was swimming in
waist-high water off North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, was mauled by up to
three bull sharks, which ripped both her arms from her body and bit into her
torso and legs4.
Don't think you are safe swimming in Victoria, as all states in Australia
have recorded shark attacks. And remember, not all of them were 'Great Whites'.
Sadly these days, it appears that sharks have more to fear from humans,
especially as their fins are in high demand.
Whilst in the ocean, you will need to take care that you
Don't brush up against, Australia's most dangerous creature, the 'Box
Jellyfish' (also known as a Sea Wasp). Whole coastlines can be closed during
the summer months in northern Queensland, from a 'marine stinger' that can
inflict searing pain, prominent scars and if severe enough, can also be fatal.
With tentacles that can reach up to 3 metres in length, the Box Jellyfish is
responsible for more deaths in Australia than snakes, sharks and salt water
crocodiles put together.
These of course are not the only jellyfish, with research discovering a much
smaller jelly fish, the
occupying a larger ocean area that includes the Great Barrier Reef. At barely 2
cm and smaller in diameter, the initial pain is only moderately painful, with
the real agony happening 30 minutes later. Deaths have been recorded.
Distributed throughout Australia's beaches, the Blue Bottle or Portuguese Man
o' War, although not technically a jellyfish, can still deliver painful stings
from the tentacles, even when found washed up on the beach. In extreme cases,
medical attention may be needed.
Blue Ringed Octopus
Considered by some as the fourth most dangerous creatures, following the Salt
Water Crocodile, the Blue Ringed Octopus are common in marine waters around
Australia, and can sometimes be found in rock pools, especially after
the tide has receded. Pale brown to yellow in colour, the electric-coloured blue
rings appear as a warning when the creature feels threatened, but by then if
you have picked it up, it is too late. The salivary glands of one individual may
contain enough venom to paralyse ten men. If resuscitation is not given when
breathing difficulties and paralysis begins, the victim will fall unconscious
and die from lack of oxygen. Death can occur within thirty minutes5.
When is rock not a rock? When it is a Stone Fish.
Also known as Rockfish or Goblinfish, this aquatic creature is one of Australia's deadly
marine creatures. With perfectly camouflage skin, it has 13 grooved
hypodermic-like spine in the dorsal fin, each capable of piercing a sandshoe,
they are found living in river mouths and coral reefs, often around rocks, and can also
be found in the mud or sand. The sting causes excruciating pain, with the
severity of symptoms depending on the number of spines and how deep the spines
have penetrated. Swelling rapidly develops with the death of the tissue area.
Other symptoms include temporary paralysis, shock and death if not treated6.
For those who like to handle shells, especially when scuba diving, several
species of Cone Shells, also known as Cone Snails are dangerous with a number of human fatalities being
attributed to them. A common fallacy is that grasping a cone at the 'large end'
is safe, but, there is no safe way to hold cones, because the proboscis of the
larger species is capable of reaching any part of the shell. They are even
dangerous out of water7. So if you find one laying
in a rock pool or washed up on the beach, don't automatically put it to your
ear, as you may find more than the sound of the ocean inside.
Crocodiles seem to have attained an iconic status among tourist, and certainly
makes headline news such as early this year when the 'MONSTER crocodile' came
within a metre of making a meal of the 27 year-old Israeli tourist, who was
leaning over the back of the dinghy posing for a photo8.
It is strange but true, that after a Northern Territory crocodile attack makes
the news, there is an increase in tourist numbers9.
What is it about our lovable crocodile, beyond the crocodile handbags and croc
For those locals and tourist planning a camping trip in the far north,
you are warned about the dangers of sleeping near the river bank in croc
country. Make sure you read all signs. If the sign is marked 'DANGEROUS - DO NOT
SWIM, CROCODILES LIVE HERE!', well you know what to expect. And just because you
are in a tent, doesn't mean you are safe, as one family camping in far north
Queensland can attest to when a croc dragged one of the occupants out10. Drunks are also more
at risk of being chomped on by a croc, believe me it is not the beer that makes
So for those still planning to get
up close to our resident reptile, a visit to a local crocodile farm or book
yourself on one of the many tours, as a great way to see our salt water
crocodiles up close.
Well, so much for our waterways, there are of course a number of other
aquatic dangers not touched on here including sea snakes and lion fish, but I am sure you will be able to research them
online. In part 2 of this article we will reveal our other 'dangerous Australians'.
Please note, this article has been prepared, not to scare, but to inform.