10 January 2006

Creepy Crawlies and Creatures Of The Deep

Trepidatious Northerners (like, say, myself) arriving in Australia for the first time often express a bit of hesitancy about all the deadly creatures swimming, flying, crawling and otherwise infesting this fine land. There are the something like 17 varieties of poisonous spiders, one of which is rumoured to climb up out of toilets and bite you on the behind, there are the hideous cane toads, which will spit poison in your mouth or eyes if it gets close enough (one hopped into the middle of an outdoor dinner party I attended in North Queensland), there are man-eating crocodiles, sharks, and my current favourite, the nearly invisible stinging jellyfish, which only this weekend killed a 7 year old girl who was splashing around in the ocean up north.

This was the same weekend, by the way, in which a 21 year old woman was "taken," as they delicately put it on the news here, by no less than three bull sharks (by "taken" they mean ripped limb from limb and partially eaten, but that has a certain lack of appeal to the tourist trade). The crocodiles have been quiet lately, but there was a tropical cyclone, thankfully on the northwest coast, some 2500 miles away, and half a dozen drownings up and down this coast, but overall, things here in Sydney are just peachy at the moment, apart from a little too much humidity.

But mention any of this to a typical Aussie, and you're almost guaranteed to get a response like, "Sharks? Nothing to worry about, mate. You've got more chance of being struck by lightning." Ditto for crocodiles, jellyfish, spiders, cane toads and, oh, forgot all about the many poisonous snakes and lizards. And they may be right in the sense that one's chances of getting eaten by a shark are fairly small (though seemingly growing, along with the shark population), but when you add all the various perils together, well, it suddenly does seem a bit more dangerous than your average country. But Aussies, almost to a man (and possibly woman, too), seem convinced that this is all a lot of jibber-jabber, and that this is the safest and loveliest and luckiest country in the world.

And most of the time, it feels like that's exactly the case. But I think I'll stick to swimming inside the shark nets just to be sure.

1 comment:

Wesley said...

One sad side effect of the recent shark attack was that they had to cancel their new tourism slogan: "Who wouldn't give an arm and a leg to visit Australia?"