Monday, November 12, 2007

Sharks, snakes, spiders, scorpions, and other scary s#!&.

This post has been a while in the making. We also have killer ants, bees, jellyfish, octopi, crocodiles (obviously) and even the worlds most dangerous bird

First, thank you for the feedback. I think I would keep this blog going (as a record of sunny-A for Kate and I) even if few people had interest in it but I’m happy that some of you do. Since you are reading these posts, I will try real hard not to waste your time with redundancy or babble and limit myself to only things that I think are funny or worth reading. And I will try to be concise and infrequent about it.
To the point. Aussie Land is home to the world's eleven most venomous snakes and twenty of the top twenty-five. The North American rattler is number twenty-three on
that list. We also have spiders that will kill you instantly or can cause the affected limb to fall off by ulceration and necrotic lesions. Plus, the Australian Government covers up hundreds of shark, crocodile and snake attacks each year to promote tourism.
And if you don’t die when something here bites you, you will wish you had. For example:
“For a shy little animal, the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) can cause a lot of grief. Tucked away on the back legs of mature males are a pair of short spurs each hooked-up to a venom gland that makes a viciously painful toxin. Platypus spurrings of people are rare, but the select group who have survived the trauma (often fishermen trying to free irate monotremes from their nets) report pain strong enough to induce vomiting which can persist for days, weeks or even months. The pain is resistant to morphine and other pain-killing drugs and anaesthesia of the main nerve from the spur site is often the only way to relieve the patient's suffering.” (somewhere online)
And if you’re thinking: come on, a platypus? Yes, a Platypus!
In Ontario, you can technically lay down and have a nap anywhere you want with zero chance of death by venom. Sure, as my new friends point out, bears are capable of eating Canadians and sometimes do but I can SEE a bear. A bear will not slither under my car seat and hide or crawl around in my hanging laundry.
Okay, okay enough. I'm sorry. I hope most of you are much smarter and braver than I was two months ago and don’t actually believe anything I have just written. It is half-true at most. Kidding, kidding. I am just having some fun with you (sorry Sandy). Some bites here are painful but none are deadly! NONE! I really mean that. There is no government cover up and I made up that deadly spider-limb thing. The platypus quote is true, so is the poisonous snake list but the bottom line is that people here simply do not die from spider or snake bites or shark attacks, period.

If you have any a faith in statistics (as I do and we all really should) there seems not to be much reason even to be careful (and Aussies are not). And the longer I spend here without seeing anyone die of venom or poison the more believable the truth becomes. The numbers are on my side big time. People here camp and hike and sleep outside. Many of the homes don’t even have windows that close. Here are the actual numbers: of the 20 million inhabitants of Australia about 120 000 will wave the big farewell each year to make room for the 'youngins'. Most of them will leave us because they have finished serving their time here and heart disease or something equaly tragic has held off as long as it can. More alarmingly, 3000 of us will die prematurely in an automobile accident this year (1 in 7000). Much fewer, only 300 of us, will drown (8 as a result of scuba diving accidents). Sadly, many of those 300 will be tourists new to the ocean and lacking in respect for it (Kate and I will not fall into that category, promise.). And what about death by shark or snake or spider? On average 1.0 person of the 20 000 000.0 here will die from shark each year, 1.6 from snake and NONE from spider. Also 0.7 people will be killed by crocodile each year and 1.8 people will die from a bee sting. So yes, I humbly admit that one or two people will earn the tragic title of ‘the statistic’ this year. And if it’s my time I suppose it's time but one in twenty million is good enough for me. And if you fear death by spider or snake then you should be equally afraid of death by falling coconut (which does happen).
But how and why are the numbers so low? Here it is. Snakes can kill but they don’t. It's that simple. Unless you’re a mouse, then you should leave Australia immediately. Snakes run and hide from people. And if I am enough of an idiot to somehow corner a deadly snake and receive a bite it will most likely not puncture deeply and inject enough venom to do any harm. If it does I usually have days and occasionally hours to get to the hospital for a dose of high quality Aussie brand anti-venom and I'm smiling again. As for sharks, to them we are food but thankfully we taste terrible. Brussel sprouts and liver, not poutine and rocky road. They ignore us. Even when we’re dressed like little black seals on our surfboards and they are feeding in swarms nearby. They still ignore us. The fact that you or I find that hard to believe makes it no less true. I will admit to hearing that they occasionally try and have a taste. (I suppose tasting bad is a rather late-stage defense mechanism to rely on.) And finally spiders. Many of the spiders here look ridiculously dangerous. I have shared a bathroom stall with some already. They are harmless. Unless you’re an insect, then you should leave Australia immediately. The Funnel-web and Redback are the only two that offer bites that can be very painful and theoretically lethal to humans. But since the introduction of anti-venom, 50 years ago, NOBODY in Australia has died of a spider bite. You have days and days to get to the hospital.
In the past months my co-workers have slowly laughed my fear of death by venom away. But even Aussies will admit that there are lots of little things here that hand out bites and stings that hurt like heck for quite a while. Ants in particular, we have many many ants. They are everywhere, and they are bastards. Also the flies here are quite ill tempered. Kate and I can’t figure out what they want from us they they clearly want something.

I'll finish with pics. First, here is John together with some local kid showing off their snake handling skills with this monster that we stumbled on about a month ago.
And don't worry about John, he really wanted this picture and he was 99.9% sure it was a python. Pythons don't kiss, they hug. And this one was cold and slow. Still, Kate and I still stayed pretty far away. I have been told that some people here find big pythons in their attics and just leave them there to kill mice.
And on a different note, here is a picture of the little cutie that was hanging out with his mom in the trees right beside the lab last week.

Not at all poisenous!! And seeing a wild one is rare, I got very lucky.


Robert said...

Hey Jake and Kate,

Awesome blog! Shannon and I have had a tonne of fun reading it. Jake, your ranting has reached an all time high in both humor and common sense...I really enjoy your take on some everyday things that being abroad for you has made you stop and think about.
The pics are great too. It's so cool that you're down there and doing such interesting stuff, both at work and at play.
We miss you guys and will continue to read so keep the posts coming!
Much love,

Katie said...

Hey guys...I love the blog! great job! It's cool to hear all the little stories and interesting facts that Jake has to offer up...
I will continue to be a dedicated reader.
love you,