I’m in the Wildcards 7 batch at the Short+Sweet festival in Sydney. I feel very good about that. The doom feeling comes when I read about the wonders of nature awaiting me in Australia. All the facts and images below are from Wikipedia. Click on the pictures to enlarge and terrify.
Theoretically speaking, my itinerary could bring me into contact with any of the items below. I’m guessing, but I think my most likely encounter would be with the spider, followed by the snake and stinging bush, then the jellyfish, and least likely, the crocodile. An accident on the streets of Sydney caused by me walking into a busy street (and falsely expecting cars to drive on the right) is more likely than any of these.
The Eastern brown snake. The world’s second most venomous land snake is an average of 1-2 meters long. “Notorious for speed and aggression.” An Eastern brown, when provoked, has been known to pursue a human for 100 meters.
The stinging bush. Stinging hairs cover the entire plant. They “deliver a potent neurotoxin when touched.” Touching the plants can cause extreme pain that lasts for days or months. This one doesn’t look very scary.
The redback spider. “One of the few spiders species that can be seriously harmful to humans.” Pain, swelling, and sweating occurs after a bite. Some people get extremely nauseous. There are between 2,000 to 10,000 redback bites per year in Australia. Fortunately, there is an antivenom.
Irikandji jellyfish. It’s one centimeter in size with tentacles of various lengths. They can actually fire stingers into their victims, and the venom is 100 times more potent than a cobra’s. Symptoms: “excruciating muscle cramps in the arms and legs, severe pain in the back and kidneys, a burning sensation of the skin and face, headaches, nausea, restlessness, sweating, vomiting, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and psychological phenomena such as the feeling of impending doom.” I didn’t invent that the last part.
Saltwater crocodile. The largest living reptile lives in estuaries, lagoons, and the lower stretches of rivers. It is an “apex” predator – at the top of the food chain. In short bursts, they can swim three times as fast as humans, and humans are considered prey if found in a crocodile’s territory. There are one or two deaths per year in Australia attributed to crocodiles.