is some dangerous jellyfish in the waters around Cape York.
You may be
scared of snakes
but as elsewhere in
Australia, the land animals in Cape
York are not nearly as deadly as the creatures of the ocean.
Australia-wide, but that mostly happens in southern Australia. Up here
have two more killers in the ocean - crocodiles and
pose the same danger all year around, while the deadly jellyfish are most
dangerous during the build-up and the Wet Season - mostly between
October and May.
is commonly known that they are not around during the rest of the year,
however at least some individuals have been reported during all months
of the year.
are many different jellyfish
Australia, the two that are deadly are Box Jellyfish and
The Deadly Box Jellyfish
is known to be the most venomous animal on the Earth, with a sting that
has been described as the most painful thing that the victims ever
If you get stung you need to treat the sting with vinegar, and you
as soon as possible.
Victims are also known to need first aid to keep breathing, and rapidly
If you are somewhere remote
York, with no means to ring an ambulance, this is not a very good
It is smart to keep
yourself out of
the ocean water.
While Box Jellyfish can be avoided on more popular beaches where there
are stinger nets
(which is not
the case in the remotest parts of Cape York), there is no such
protection from the tiny Irukandji.
Another Dangerous Jellyfish -
This stinger is small
enough to come through the nets, and it is
transparent and almost invisible.
its small size its tentacles can be a metre long. And it gives you a
which can initially be unnoticed, but once the symptoms
arise, they are severe.
You do need medical assistance, and again, being stung
is not a good situation.
If you cannot get medical help it
can well be life
Jellyfish is not only the most dangerous jellyfish in Australia.
famously the most
poisonous creature on
with "poison so toxic it can kill a human in minutes", and "pain so
severe victims have known to go to shock and drown".
It is a marine stinger
that is found
in the ocean water, and if its
long tentacles touch you in the water, it injects poison into you -
poison that attacts your skin, heart and nervous system.
If you don't drown in
shock, you may
die of cardiac arrest.
But let's get the terms right first.
Is Box Jellyfish?
World-wide, the term applies to
different jellyfish species(belonging to class Cubozoa). They
differ from 'true' jellyfish (class Scyphozoa)
by having a box-shaped body, tentacles emerging from each corner,
eyesight, a more developed nervous system and an ability to swim
instead of just drifting. In other words, in many ways, they are more
advanced than the
While the most dangerous ones of them are found in Indo-Pacific, there
are also others in the group, that are found in other parts of the
In Australia, to most
people, but also
in the media, the term 'box jellyfish' applies to Chironex
largest and by far the most fatal of all our jellyfish.
Although there are more jellyfish that belong to the group even in
Australia (Irukandji is
one of them), this
page is about Chironex
- the species that to most of us in Australia is simply known as box
jellyfish. Chironex Fleckeri
is transparent to
pale blue and not always very easy to see in the water.
It can swim, so it can move
more developed nervous
and 24 eyes,
with a lens, cornea, iris and retina.
It even has a very limited memory
and an ability to learn.
the largest jellyfish in
weighing up to two kilos.
that can be up to
three metres long.
Each tentacle has about five
thousand stinging cells (nematocysts).
Where Is Box Jellyfish Found?
Box jellyfish is found in the ocean
waters of northern Australia, with the southernmost
points near Bundaberg in the east and Shark Bay in the west.
It is not to be relied
that they cannot be any further south (saltwater
have also extended further south than they used to be and while it
definitely depends on shooting bans it may also depend on changes in
When Is Box Jellyfish Around?
It is officially known that box jellyfish, and some other dangerous
jellyfish such as Irukandji, are around during the Wet Season,
approximately between October and May, and the season is
further north you are.
But in fact, you could get stung any time of
the year as stings have
during all months.
They prefer calm, not
too deep waters
but can be present in all conditions.
They seem to like river mouths and tend to be absent in coral reef. They are also (obviously)
the beaches by onshore
beaches, there are surf
savers who have an eye on all the swimmers who swim between the flags.
They are there all year around but only certain hours (approximately
business hours but including weekends).
Sting and Venom of Box
their prey, or human skin, they are triggered by chemicals that are
found on the skin.
The tentacles attach themselves to the skin and the stinging cells inject poison to the
Box jellyfish's poison is
because they need to kill their prey instantly - others they would have
huge problems catching creatures like shrimp and small fish.
They also use it for protection from predators that include larger
fish, crabs and sea turtles.
The severity of the
damage depends on
the health and the age of the victim,
the size of the jellyfish and the amount of tentacles involved, where
on the victim's body the contact occurs, how long the contact lasts,
of course how and how quickly it is treated.
The symptoms include
marks on the skin, burning pain that can last for weeks, respiratory distress, irregular heartbeat,
pain, and in more serious cases extensive skin damage, cessation of breathing and cardiac arrest.
Survivors describe the pain
something worse than they have ever
How to Protect Yourself from
thing is of course
to avoid getting stung
keeping out of their way.
During the stinger
season, there are
stinger nets on all busier beaches in northern Australia
said, most Cape York beaches are not busy enough for that).
Those nets, however, give only half the protection as the tentacles of
box jellyfish still come through them, and even broken off tentacles
There are also stinger
but they too leave your face and hands out. They do protect most of the
Many locals simply don't swim in the ocean waters and use swimming
pools instead. It's often tourists who use stinger nets.
Treatment of Stings of Box
thing is to get
the victim out of the water and pour
vinegar over the wounds before ripping off the tentacles from the skin.
That's unless the victim is showing
signs of cardiac
arrest, in which case, of
(cardio pulmonary resuscitation)
has to be done before anything
Once the vinegar has been poured over the wounds, which deactivates the stinging cells,
tentacles are removed (like with many other jellyfish, the tentacles
will still fire poison even though they have broken off, or even if the
box jellyfish is dead, but vinegar deactivates them).
Do not rub the skin, it will stimulate the stinging cells.
After that, a second lot
goes on. Vinegar is by far the
best and in fact
the only remedy despite anything you may have heard about alcohol, ammonia, urine, fresh water, different acids and lemon
Pressure immobilization bandage also has a bad effect.
There are nowadays bottles
available on all northern Australian beaches that get
and enough visitors.
However, it is not always the case with some more remote Cape York
beaches, where you
should keep out of the water anyway because of crocodiles.
In any case, it is not a bad idea to add
a bottle of vinegar to your first aid kit. After the vinegar and the
tentacles the ambulance
should be called
in case of box jellyfish.
In milder cases antihistamins, painkillers and ice may be enough to
manage the effects of the venom.
In worse cases antivenin
be needed and sometimes it needs to be applied very quickly - within
At least 64 people have
by box jellyfish in Australia.
is a small, dangerous jellyfish in northern Australia.
It is the
second most dangerous
after box jellyfish (Chironex
- Australia's largest.
It is known for a combination of symptoms
that are known as Irukandji
known for giving extensive pain, and about 60 people a
reported stung in Australia.
jellyfish was hardly heard
of before 2002 when two
occured in north Queensland only months apart from each
What Kind of Jellyfish Is It?
most of us, there are two fatal
jellyfish in Australia - the
box jellyfish and the
Irukandji, and that's all we need to know.
Taxonomically, though, "the large box jellyfish" above is only one
species - Chironex
in a large group of box jellyfish - and irukandji, that in fact
consists of at least two species what we know, is also part of the
It, too, has a box shaped body, even though much smaller - with a size
of about a
The two species known are Carukia
barnesi and Malo
kingi, but it's believed there is more.
Where Is the Irukandji Found?
jellyfish, it is
found in the waters
of northern Australia,
also some other places in the world.
mostly found on the eastern coast, it is found both on the western and the
It's known to be quite bad in Broome, but also in north Queensland
where the two fatal
cases took place.
Australian hot spot for the syndrome has been near Palm Cove north of
Cairns, and the
jellyfish was therefore named
after the local
Yirrganydji Aboriginal people.
It is often found near the coast, where the water is warmer. Climate
change could enable it to move further south.
When Is Irukandji Around?
other dangerous Australian
its season is between October and May.
However, stings can
occur any time of
Not a lot is known about
its life cycle,
mainly because it is too fragile to live in an aquarium - hitting a
wall kills it. They have be born in captivity, the first one was born
What Does Irukandji Look Like?
is a small
jellyfish with a box
about 5-10mm wide.
Like Chironex Fleckeri
it has tentacles
coming out from each
corner of the body, the difference is that there is only one in each corner
and that they are
shorter - often no longer than a few centimetres but can be up to one metre long
(still long for
the tiny jellyfish!).
Another difference - from all other jellyfish - is that it also has tentacles coming out
Sting and Venom of Irukandji
other jellyfish -
when its tentacles touch their prey and other species, including
humans, whose skin carries centrain chemicals, their stinging cells are triggered.
They attach themselves to the skin and inject poison to the body.
Unlike other box jellyfish, irukandji
fires poison from the tips of its stinging cells -
that causes a delayed pain reaction.
Its venom is very toxic
needs to kill its prey - mainly small fish - very fast. Its venom has
been said to be 100 times as potent as a cobra's and 1,000 times as
potent as a tarantula's.
combination of different symptoms that are collectively called irukandji syndrome.
The initial sting is
known for only a
moderate pain, or even going unnoticed, but the symptoms start later
(typically about 30 minutes later).
The symptoms include
- burning sensation
of the skin
- pain in
kidneys and lower
- muscle cramps
in arms and
- agitation, anxiety
- very high blood
rapid heart rate, abnormal heart beat
In serious cases these can develop into hypertension, toxic heart failure
and pulmonary oedema
(water in the
lungs), which, if not treated, can be fatal.
The symptoms can last from hours to days and even weeks.
Victims usually need to
How to Protect Yourself
all jellyfish, the
best prevention is to avoid
water altogether and swim in a swimming pool. Particularly
during the stinger season.
The stinger nets
placed on northern Australian
beaches during the season, are designed for large box jellyfish (Chironex
Fleckeri), not for irukandji, which
them (they were designed before the fatal irukandji cases).
Treatment of a Sting of
jellyfish, get out of the water and pour
vinegar on the wounds, then remove any tentacles from your
Vinegar will deactivate
cells that haven't been fired yet.
But it will not reverse
the effect of
any poison that has already been fired into your body, so
may still get the symptoms about half an hour later (but possibly also
much earlier - starting from within minutes).
Ring the ambulance - you
may need to
killed at least two people in Australia, but nobody knows
many have been misdiagnosed as for a long time the jellyfish was not
known due to its small size.
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should take, how to get
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and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.
This complete 300 pages
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background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my partner Mark who is the recovery guy on northern Cape York and the Old Telegraph Track). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)
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