Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Damn, Nature, You Scary

Australia is home to deadly, deadly things. The deadliest snakes, spiders, reptiles, fish, birds, and probably fluffy bunny rabbits live here. Here's a quick survey of the things I'm afraid of in Australia, on a fear scale from 1 to 10.

1: Snakes. Yes, Australia has the deadliest snakes in the world, including sea snakes, but on the whole, I don't think of snakes as that dangerous. I've never been bitten by a snake. Nor has anyone I know. I kind of like snakes, and from all experience, they tend to be sedate or even timid if you leave them alone. So while snake venom may be terrible, you have to get it in your bloodstream for bad things to happen, and that seems unlikely. 

2: Spiders. There are tons of venomous spiders in Australia, including one that focuses itself in and around Sydney. I kind of feel the same way about spiders as I do about snakes: in opposition to the popular opinion, I have a certain affection for them. Unlike snakes, though, I can certainly see how someone could overlook a spider and accidentally get bitten.

The redback, clearly a relative of the US black widow. I lived with black widows in Tucson without a problem.
2.5: Drop Bears. Google that stuff. 

2.5 Cassowaries. Like other big, dangerous animals, encounters with these guys are rare, but the cassowary is reported to be aggressive and potentially dangerous if it feels threatened. Like other big, dangerous, animals, I'd love to see one. But from a distance. Those things are dinosaurs.
3.5–4: Sharks. I plan on being in the water a lot, but sharks are rare, and shark attacks are rarer, and many beaches in Australia are patrolled.

 5: Crocodiles. This is where things turn from "Not really something I'm going to bother thinking about," to "Yeah, no." Saltwater crocodiles are big, charismatic, and fascinating. I'd love to see one, but in a controlled environment, like a croc farm. They're one of the few animals that routinely stalk and kill humans, and they do it much more often (and much better) than other maneaters. Guidebooks note that when camping in croc territory, it's best not to fetch water from the same spot more than once. Which is extra scary, because it means they're watching you.
Keeping the food chain in order.

6.5: Reef Residents: Stonefish, Blue-Ringed Octopus. You can see why people get stung by picking up the delicate, lovely blue-ringed octopus. Don't you just want to make a necklace out of it?
A necklace made of death within minutes.
 8–10: Jellyfish. Brainless, floating shopping bags with tentacles that sting you just by touching you. You can even get stung if you brush against stray shreds of tentacles that aren't attached to the animal anymore. Some, like the box jellyfish, are deadly. Others will just make you wish for death, what with the crippling, full-body pain for up to a week. The problem with jellyfish is that they have no real behavior to speak of. You can't avoid them by being conscientious or out-thinking them or even avoiding their specific homes. They just float there, in the middle of open water, all like "DUHHHH," and if it floats near you, you're dead.