Wednesday, 8 October 2008

North Queensland

Life in North Queensland. Beautiful one day Perfect the next... As long as you can stay away from the crocodiles, sharks, snakes, ticks, leeches, jellyfish, stonefish, spiders, man-eating birds, bunyips and dropbears. Okay, maybe the bunyips and dropbears are still to be verified but the rest are for real!

Warning this is going to be long so I left out the bunyip and dropbear, google or wiki them if you have never heard of them. Then after you get off Wiki you can tell me about where you live.
My last post prompted some questions on why there is a post on the beach with vinegar in it. So we'll start this little tourist brochure with that... We have stinger season here. November - May (yep, right alongside cyclone season, what a blast!) you must swim in stinger nets if you are swimming in the sea. I'm pretty sure stingers are just jellyfish that have venomous tentacles. If you do get stung by a tentacle (even in the stinger nets) you need to pour vinegar over it to wash off the tentacles and deactivate any little venom thingys that are left on the skin. We have some great stingers here Box jelly, Irukandji are the only ones that have caused fatalities though. You can get some degree of stinger resistance by swimming with nylon stockings covering any exposed flesh and staying in the enclosures helps but again it's resistant and not completely safe, the netting is generally about the size of chicken wire. A tentacle seperated from it's jellyfish can still sting, the little venom bits fire instantly on contact with skin. The head of an Irukandji is only 5mm but it has tentacles 1m long.

While we're in the ocean lets also be careful of the sharks. Unless you are landlocked or living somewhere REALLY cold you probably deal with sharks. Sharks eat people. We get in their territory we have to expect that they will try to sort us out, they dont like eating people we arent their natural food but we wear flippers and look like seals, we splash around like a fish in distress, you have to admit a human looks pretty out of place in the water so you cant really blame the sharks for having a go at them. There are some that are okay, I have swum with a white tip reef shark (completely unintentionally, I just about wet myself and got out of the water as quickly and as calmly as I could) and they are in theory safe but I'd rather not be the first to find a cranky one. So we have drum lines and stuff off the main beaches to keep the sharks away and if any are spotted the beaches are closed until they move on.

Tiger Shark
Now we have established that the ocean isn't safe lets move into a creek. Just watch out for crocodiles. They are also in the ocean and any sightings close the beaches. They are confusingly labeled saltwater and freshwater crocodiles with the "salties" being the dangerous ones (still wouldnt like to meet a cranky "freshy") but the salties can still live in fresh water. They are most common around mouths of creeks and rivers but will happily venture further upstream. They will attack your boat, can jump out of the water a long way (you should see the height of the fences at the crocodile parks), will finish you off without a trace and they get gout. so the last but isnt so dangerous (for us anyway) but I think it's amusing that a crocodile can get gout. Take a dog or a smaller sibling swimming with you and you will be safe, they take the smallest of the group if they have a choice.
Lion with a croc warning sign down the road from us.

And in both fresh and salt water you have a chance of standing on a stone fish. These little darlings sit on the bottom looking for all the world like a stone (um, yeah, you probably figured that) and you come along and stand on them and they put up their spikes and they pump their venom into your foot. Not long and you can be having a heart attack or suffering paralysis or all sorts of other problems depending on the fish. They are aparently the most venomous fish inthe world.

Stone fish
Attractive isnt he??

So we arent safe in or on any water unless it's a swimming pool. Lets go bushwalking... Just remember that Australia has the biggest population of deadly snakes inthe world. Brown snakes and Tiapans are very agressive and it's unlikely they will back off in a face off. Death adders are more placid but just as deadly (hence the name!!!) they will let you step right over them (I have) and the person behind will step right over them (nope my scream scared the horrid little thing off) and then a few people back the snake will have had jack of it all and bite. There are others but these are the fun ones.

Death Adder

And if they dont bite you a tick probably will. they get in your ears, in your groin, in your hair, between your toes and they hang on. some are just uncomfortable but there are a few that can cause serious problems with some of your major organs. And dont just pull them off - you can leave their head behind still doing it's damage, you have to twist them and make sure they are completely gone!

But if rainforests are more your style, swimming in the crystal pools far above the reach of the sharks and crocodiles watch out for leeches. Little ones, big ones, REALLY big ones.
Then the spiders. There's the redbacks (related to the black widow) that people seem to be most afraid of. They are shy little things, that you really need to provoke (even though sometimes it's accidental) before they bite. There's the bird spiders (because they eat birds, also called mouse spiders, whistling spiders or the Australian Tarantula) we had one of these in our house. It was a small one, about the size of my hand, aparently they grow to the size of a dinner plate. They can kill a dog with their poison. I threw every shoe I could reach at the horrid little thing and they all hit and it didn't do a thing to it. I found out later that they can jumo really well, boy I wish they would wear some sort of flashing sign so I know these things before I throw all my shoes at them. Wolf came inside to rescue me and convinced it to climb into a tiny little jar where it was all crunched up but he figured it wanted to get away from the psycho lady throwing her whole shoe basket at it. Then there's the funnel webs, YUCK.
Bird Spider
Now those man-eating birds. okay this one fits in with the drop bears and bunyips but it's a great story. These birds squeal like a woman in distress. We had a work colleague come and stay with us from brisbane, we had just had the spider incident I described above, he was a little worried about the gecko's crawling around the walls squealing gekgekgek. I think there might have been mention of the size we grow our cocroaches to up here and then he heard this bird. And it just came to me... "That's nothing, just a man-eating bird" "A what?" "man-eating bird, they only eat men, they sit in the bush and cry out like a distressed woman so a man comes to rescue her and when he comes close it attacks and eats him." "......*silence*......" "yeah" "and my bed is a mattress on the floor tonight?" "yeah". You could probably actually believe this about the birds to see them, they are weird looking birds that stand nearly 50cm tall.

Baby Curlew Man-Eating Bird

So, North Queensland is a great place to live. This is pretty much the first lecture the first year photography students get, there are a lot of international students and they want to head out to photograph beautiful Australia. Not such a good idea if you dont know what else is out there. It can be safe it you are aware of what else is with you. So come for a visit,

North Queensland

Beautiful One Day

Freaky Dangerous the Next

Do you think I could get a job writing tourist campaigns?


  1. You forgot to tell about the stinging caterpillars, trees, bugs, deadly sea shells and the small deadly octopus and I'm sure I've left something out.....
    Author Terry Pratchett's character "DEATH" asked his library which creatures in the land of XXXX* were not deadly and received the answer "Some of the sheep".
    *from a well known brand of Australian beer.

  2. Ah - I see why Terri Irwin was labelled "Australia's tourism promotor" over you - LOL

    Well you may have the biggest roaches up there - but we have the biggest redbacks - seriously I've never seen any as big as they breed down here! And by the millions - everywhere - I teach the kids "look with your eyes before you put your hands & feet anywhere"!
    You missed out the "white - tail" spider (although it's not a NQ one, but worth mentioning) - one bite & you can be a goner - no they don't have any antivenom for them - oh & they love to live on gates (it seems anyway)!
    Enjoy your deadly, venemous neighbours there!

  3. I loved this tourism compilation!! I had often told my husband that after watching various wildlife shows on Australia, I wasn't completely convinced that I ever wanted to go, seeing as how most of the wildlife shows on Australia seemed to begin with the phrase "The Most Venomous/Deadly/Aggressive/Lethal--what have you"! Thanks for confirming all my Animal Planet viewing!!

  4. That's very interesting!!
    I remember when I was visiting you around the time of your wedding, we went to a crocodile park and I got to hold a baby croc!! Of course it had its mouth tied shut with heaps of ropes!!

    When I was 4 or 5, me and mum were visiting grandma .W. She had her hose lying out on the grass and I was running right next to it. The hose suddenly stuck its head up and looked at me! That's when we realised that it was a red-bellied black snake!!!

  5. Hmm ... I'm not so sure I want HB to be posted to QLD now!

    Mum told me about those curlews when she came back from South Molle Is - said it scared her to death in the evening because it sounded like a woman screaming in pain.

    Don't forget the Yowie!

  6. If we keep in mind I have lived here almost my whole life and (counting all the various deadly spiders as one) I have only come across 5 or 6 on the list. And none have actually got me... yet. Well, the odd tick and leech have but they were little ones.
    Perhaps Tourism Australia will be calling me to sue, maybe I should do a post on all the cute animals... nah.

  7. I didn't even see the fish! LOL Thanks for psoting all the great pictures!

  8. Amazing....
    Very interesting...
    Jai Sai Ram

  9. Apparently aboriginal people up here don't like curlews because they believe their "screaming" is a harbinger of death. I feel it is a comforting sound when we have been camping because it means there are no larger animals or people sneaking around. The birds freeze and act like a bit of broken log when there is a threat.

  10. I don't know where Renata lives, but I have never seen bigger redbacks than those I saw in Keep River National Park in the Northern Territory. Those things were the size of 50c coins. (The whole spider, that is, not just its body).

    Now, as for me who's lived in NQ all her life (although it's been shorter than yours :P): I haven't been gotten by ANY of the above. I've seen more crocs in the NT than QLD, more redbacks in the NT than QLD, the only death adder I've ever seen was in the NT (I'm sensing a pattern here) that my sister almost stood on, and the only wild shark I've ever seen was three feet long and caught in a rockpool (no not THE rockpool, A rockpool). I've certainly seen my share of spiders and snakes, but the only bite I know of was a huntsman bit my friend once and a redback bit my mum (while she was pregnant). The only dangerous spiders I've ever seen here was the redback I almost put my hand on, and the whistling spider whose hole Tim Canavan and Adam Bury pitched their tent on a few family camps ago.

    I've also never had a tick (although my brother has) nor a leech.

    *sings* Come to Australia, you might accidentally get killed.


I'd love to hear from you, even if it's just to say "Hi, I stopped by for a read today"
We love comments, we don't love spam. Too much spam means I'm moderating comments now and have put on an anti-robot word verification doo-dad, sorry.