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The Deadly Irukandji

04 April 2012 | Great Barrier Reef, QLD
Yesterday afternoon a bunch of us cruisers were sitting drinking beer with a local dive master named Bill who doubles as an electrician here at the marina. Bill says that he has logged over 2000 dives on the Yongala and claims that it IS the #1 dive on the planet earth. A huge claim right! We will soon see.

Anyhow, after getting us all pumped on the idea of diving the GBR and the Yongala, he then started telling us about the Irukandji attacks that happen every year. Bill said that he has rescued people that have been stung and he wouldn't wish that pain on anyone. He also says you can't dive anywhere without a sting suit that covers everything from toe to the top of your head. Now this is a problem for me because I don't like wearing wet suits because I overheat in them...seriously. I can dive in 65 degree water without a wet suit and feel perfectly comfortable.

So, I decided to do some research on the subject,
Irukandji vs. Sharks & Crocodiles

Irukandji Stings = 60 people/year

The Irukandji Jellyfish (Carukia barnesi) inhabits waters of Australia. This is a deadly jellyfish, which is only 2.5 centimeters (with bell and tentacles) in diameter, which makes it difficult to spot.

The Irukandji is believed to be the most venomous creature in the world. Its venom is very powerful, 100 times as potent as that of a cobra and 1,000 times as potent as that of a tarantula. Researchers conjecture that its venom possesses such potency to enable it to quickly stun its prey, which consists of small and fast fish.

The term Irukandji refers to an Australian Aboriginal tribe that inhabited the Palm Cove region of northern Queensland where the Irukandji syndrome, produced by the irukandji stings poison, occurs most often. This is a species of jellyfish that has been known about in recent years, due to deaths of swimmers in Australia. In 2002, Richard Jordon stung while swimming off the coast of de Hamilton. He was a British tourist 58 years old, unfortunately he died a few days later.

Irukandji has stingers not only on its tentacles but also on its bell. Irukandji is very small and fragile, it cannot be kept in a normal aquarium because if they hit the side the impact will kill it. The first Irukandji jellyfish in captivity borned in Townsville.

The Irukandji's sting causes symptoms which are collectively known as "Irukandji syndrome". The Irukandji syndrome Symptoms were first documented by Hugo Flecker in 1952. Every summer, more than sixty people are hospitalized with this potentially fatal syndrome. Catastrophic complex of clinical signs and symptoms.The initial sting is typically mild and is followed, minutes to hours later, by vomiting, profuse sweating, headache, agitation, rapid heart rate and very high blood pressure. The increase in blood pressure may be life-threatening and can be associated with abnormal heart beat and heart failure. The symptoms may last from hours to several days, and victims usually require hospitalisation. Though the syndrome was first described almost fifty years ago, its pharmacological basis and a specific treatment have eluded investigators. In rare cases, the victim suffers pulmonary oedema which could be fatal if not treated.

Australian Shark Attacks = 4 people/year

Sharks live in all the coastal waters and estuarine habitats around the 35,000 km of Australia's coast. As the population of the country increases, many more people are entering coastal waters for recreational and commercial reasons throughout the year.
Although Australia has had a bad reputation concerning the threat of shark attacks to swimmers, the statistics do not support these fears.

In the last 50 years, there have been only 46 fatalities (0.92 per year) in Australian waters from shark attacks. Some years there are no fatalities recorded, other years there have been up to 4 a year, but the average remains around one per year. Shark attack must be viewed in perspective, there are thousands of swimmer-days that take place on our beaches, harbours and rivers each year with an estimated 100,000,000 beach visitation a year and the number is growing with both increasing population and tourism. It is inevitable someone somewhere will encounter a shark or other marine animals and these encounters sometime result in injury and on rare occasions death.

Australian Crocodile Attacks = 1 person/year

Saltwater crocodiles in Australia are most often associated with the waters of the Northern Territory but Queensland has more than its share of these reptiles surviving hundreds of thousands of years. Crocodiles are powerful beasts yet the statistics of being attacked are minimal. If you are about to travel to this tropical paradise you might want to know the best way to avoid a crocodile attack in the Great Barrier Reef and stay safe while you are in the waters of the Whitsundays.

Crocodile sightings in the Great Barrier Reef are few and far between, but it is always wise not to be complacent. These magnificent yet dangerous creatures do inhabit the waters of our tropical paradise but sightings in the sea or on the islands are few and far between. The danger lies in the rivers, but even then attacks are not a normal occurrence.
Most crocodile attacks occur between late September and January when crocodiles are hungry after the dry season and are preparing to breed, and most victims had been under the influence of alcohol, and swimming at times and in places that most sensible people would avoid.

Crocodiles are capable of biting with a force of a tonne per square inch, believed to be more powerful than the jaws of the legendary Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur!
Although the average annual death toll from crocodile attacks is only one, there was a bit of a peak in crocodile attacks in 2005 when from late August to early October three people were killed and one girl injured.
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