Most people know that Australia has dangerous creatures such as Snakes, Crocodiles and Sharks, but there are a few other creatures and phenomenon that can also be rather dangerous and to know of them and where they are, can reduce the risk to a minimum. Here are a few that I feel are worth mentioning.
Thegolden rule with regard to surfing is, "Bathe between the Flags". There are many patrolled beaches in Australia and these have an area of the beach marked by flags. This area is relatively safe and is watched by life savers in case a swimmer gets into difficulty. Other areas on the beach or on unpatrolled beaches may have dangerous rips. A rip is a current or an under tow, which carries the water which has been brought to the beach by wave action, back out again. The strength of a rip depends on the formation of the beach, but they are sometimes so strong that even the strongest swimmer would have difficulty swimming against them. If you must swim on an unpatrolled beach, ask locals about conditions, or at least be very aware of a current sweeping you sideways along the beach. Somewhere it may meet an opposing current and turn rapidly out to sea!
Box Jellyfish or Sea Wasp
While on the subject of swimming, most people now know that in the warmer part of the year when the ocean is so inviting, there are dangerous jelly fish in the northern waters. The Box Jellyfish, or Sea Wasp, is a said to be the most venomous marine animal known. This and many other dangerous animals are described in detail in Dr. Carl Edmond's extremely good reference book, "Dangerous Marine Creatures" ISBN 0 941 332-39 X. I highly recommend this book to any one diving in Australian waters. It could save you a lot of pain or even your life! Not only does Dr. Edmonds describe the animals and their dangers, but he also gives first aid procedures for helpers and full medical advice for a doctor treating the injury. If you must swim in dangerous waters, wear a full wet suit or protective clothing.
Further info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chironex_fleckeri
Blue Ringed Octopus
The blue ringed octopus is resident on beaches all around Australia, but quite common around Sydney. It sometimes is left stranded in tidal rock pools when the tide goes down. If an unknowing person happens to wade through the rock pool and stand on it with bare feet, it will naturally bite. The bite is not very painful, but it can cause death by suffocation in less than five minutes. The poison acts on the nervous system and causes cramps in various muscles including those of the lungs so that one dies from suffocation. Dont walk through rock pools. Smaller octopuses sometimes hide in discarded sea shells, so be careful handling seemingly dead shells.
Further info on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue-ringed_octopus
Typical Cone Shell, Conus geographusThe cone shell, as the name indicates, is an attractive cone shaped shell found around shallow waters, reef, ponds and rubble. A proboscis protrudes from the narrow end of the shell, but can normally reach the full length of the shell. Holding it by the thick end is not safe. A small extremely poisonous harpoon is shot from the proboscis and is capable of penetrating clothing. About 25% of cone shell stings result in death. I knew a large man in New Guinea who almost died from the sting of a seemingly dead cone shell that he had picked up on the beach an put in his pocket.
Further info on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conus_geographus
Stone FishThe stone fish, "the most venomous fish known", is a grotesque looking fish which is really well camouflaged to blend in with a stony coral sea bed. If you are unlucky enough to stand on it, the spines on it's back inject poison into your foot causing excruciating pain. The poison can be destroyed by heat, 2 minutes at 50° C. First aid includes immersing the wound in hot water (up to 50°C) for 30 minutes. The spines are strong enough to penetrate sand shoes, so if you are wading in such areas, wear thick soled shoes!
Link to further info: http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Animals+of+Queensland/Fishes/Venomous+fishes/Stonefish#.UsFhPClbBjo
There are about 40 species of funnel-web spiders but the Sydney funnel-web is the best known, as Sydney was built right on it's habitat and so it gets to bite more people. They can be deadly, so if you are camping in the bush always check your shoes before you put them on and be careful if gathering firewood etc. They live in burrows in the ground which are lined with spider web thus giving the effect of a funnel. Some species live in trees and make their home in cracks in the bark etc. There is now an antivenene for the poison, but you first have to get to a hospital.
Red Backed Spider
The red back spider can also give a very painful bite. It is common throughout the northern areas and has a striking black body about the size of a small pea with a brilliant red diamond on it. It tends to hide under wood or rubbish lying on the ground and can be aggressive when protecting its egg sack.
If you take care you should be ok. Wear good shoes and long trousers when bush walking and be careful, particularly when collecting firewood. Never step over a log on the ground without first looking to see what is on the other side, it could be a snake! When wading in shallow water, watch where you walk and be careful what you pick up along the shore.
Good Luck, Kerry Cassidy