Five Deadly Minutes in Australia

5 Deadly Minutes in Australia

I think many associate Australia with highly poisonous and man-eating animals. However, if you ever visit you’ll likely find modern and well-manicured cities with no signs of these deadly creatures. Although if you get off the beaten path and into the Outback, OZ does live up to its reputation!

Here is the story, of my 5 minutes in Australia while I was volunteering in the remote area of Cobourg Peninsula. This is an extremely remote area, where few people ever have permission or cause to venture. We were tasked with weeding out all non-native species of plants in the area. A tough and not so glamorous task! Every plant we were expected to remove seemed to have thorns and be surrounded by giant tree dwelling ants. They seemed all too willing to leap from the nests in defence of the colony. The ants would bite into your skin on contact (no poison, just pinchers), their bodies contorting with the effort of causing as much pain as possible. The only defence we had was to run away shouting and stripping off all our clothes. But the job came with its rewards!

Our small group and the two park rangers had about 2,000Km² to play with and two speed boats to race across the lagoon each morning. On this particular day, one ranger asked for volunteers for what he described as a “shitter of a job”. But getting to know the ranger, I suspected it was actually going to be fun. So, I volunteered, along with a handful of others.

The 5 minutes’ start as we look for a spot to land the boat. This was an extremely isolated patch of shoreline that I suspect nobody had visited for many years. The first location was no good because we spotted box jelly fish in the water, so we moved along a little.

As we approached the second spot we saw something on the shore… is it a crocodile or is it an old tree? Tree… Croc… Tree… Croc… Def a tree… Then as we near, a 3m croc darts for the water. On we go, the bow of the boat touches the shore and they need a volunteer to anchor the boat on the beach. So, I volunteer jumping into the water, while the others keep an eye out for more crocs.

When I get on the beach, I see a tree that looks ideal for securing the boat to. But, I decide to give it a kick first to make sure it’s not rotten. Sure, enough it is rotten and it snaps in two to reveal a huge brown snake in the hollow inside. So, I find another tree to secure the boat to.

As the others get out the boat I look around, and I see sharks swimming around the shallows. A third of their body exposed above the water as they chase their prey around. 5 minutes over and four dangerous animals added to the tally.

Later, on the beach we stumble upon a wild boar and another crocodile in the mangroves, all while looking for mud crabs for dinner.

While on the beach we dug up and removed as much of the offending pear cactus from the area as we could find. Interesting fact, this non-native species of cactus was introduced by the British because it harbours a certain kind of insect, used to create the red dye for the ‘Red-Coats’ uniform. We pilled all the cactus up and started a small fire to dispose of it, then left the island. Looking back 15 minutes later, our little fire had gotten a little out of hand and turned into a full blow bush fire. Whoops!

Starting the Fire with Ranger
Starting the Fire with Ranger

Not to worry though, we were with the Park Rangers and they just said they would mark it as a controlled burn. At this time of year, they have many controlled burns as a means of preventing much larger wildfires developing in the coming lightening season.

Deadly Encounters

  • Box Jelly Fish – Some species can kill a human in 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Saltwater Crocodile – One of the most dangerous animals in Australia; huge, aggressive, territorial.
  • Brown Snake – listed as the 2nd most poisonous land snake in the world.
  • Sharks – actually not all that dangerous, especially these smaller species.
  • Wild Boar – they can be very aggressive and unpredictable.
  • Bush Fire – a natural occurrence in Northern Australia, can be disastrous for life and habitats if not controlled.

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