Throughout Australia, rays pierce our oceans with grace – but do not go wrong, provide protection wherever they are. At the top of their tails are serrated spikes smeared with venom.
In the meantime, delicate jellyfish from the box floats on our warm seas, toothless and without claws, and they carry with them an arsenal of 60 billion toxic stinging cells. If a man is brushed by two meters of tentacles, their heart may stop in a few minutes.
Of course, none of these creatures are looking for trouble. In fact, there is not one venomous animal in the world that feeds on humans – says toxicology expert Jamie Seymour, who was stung 11 times by Irukandji's jellyfish. Each sting, bite or sting – though potentially life-threatening – is only given in self-defense.
"Pain is worse than you can imagine," Professor Seymour says cheerfully. "It's 14 out of 10"
Sending animals to predators like us is clear: stand on me or attack my space, and bring you into the world of suffering.
Here are four stories about Australians who have encountered poisonous sea life and survived to tell this story.
Here's what you should do if you or anyone in your area is unlucky to have a similar meeting this summer.
Sting jellyfish field
Andrew Jones was on a family vacation on Koh Mak Island in the Gulf of Thailand on Christmas Day, 2007. He, his wife and two young sons were swimming when he left the water to rest. Andrew describes the following:
"The next thing was that my four-year-old Lewis was shouting, and even now, to remember, this cry gives me shivers.
"His mother swam up to him and I ran in. I picked him up.
"He had things hanging from him, almost like cooked vermicelli, transparent." I ran back to the beach with him, I still did not know what it was, but I knew I had to get him out of him, with my fingers I grabbed one of these things and pulled out her, and the resistance was like pulling a Velcro. He left a large incision on the left thigh.
"But as soon as I did, he stopped shouting and immediately fell unconscious and in a few seconds he turned blue, I checked his pulse and there was nothing. He did not breathe.
"We came back to the cottage, shouting for help." The woman who ran the place got vinegar and began to pour it over Lewis's legs.
"Maybe two minutes later he took a deep breath, and his eyes widened very widely and he made a huge cry and began to cry, it was almost like a revival, a miracle." Every expert we talked to said he should have died of this amount of venom. .
"There was one taxi on this island, and it just happened to be out of the center." We pushed him inside, groaning and delirious, with eyes rolling in his head, toward the medical clinic.
"We talked with Lewis to keep his awareness while the woman from the hotel called, and 45 minutes later someone came.
"They cleaned his wounds and removed the remaining tentacles from his legs, healed the pain and told us everything would be all right, we took him back to the house and the owner made us a paste that I know was a mild painkiller that suppressed the pain, caused by coastal shrubs growing along the beaches.
"You go out of the way, looking for paradise, but we're stuck there, and it could have been much worse."
Steph Gould waded in Brighton Beach, in Melbourne in Port Phillip Bay, in 2017, when she stood on a mantle. He remembers what happened later:
"Something under my foot was rubbery and a little patted.
"I did not see it at all. The water was almost to the waist, so you could not see the bottom.
"I felt this pain in the back of my ankle and my first reaction was," I think I'm a little bit. "We went ashore and realized that there was an intersection [of my leg] and one inside – so whatever it was outside, he came out on the other side of the Achilles tendon and moved away again.
"I remember that I was wondering – because of course there are so many venomous creatures in Australia – is it deadly venomous creatures or gently poisonous creature?
Blood ran down my foot and I could not walk because it went through the tendon.
"I was wondering how I could control my body in this situation?" I felt the poison come up to my leg, the tail tail poison, which is terribly painful if it gets into the bloodstream, it was like a burning pain that seemed paralyzing me – definitely the most distorting pain I have ever felt.
"We went to the nearest doctor's surgery, blood was running down my foot and I could not walk because it went through the tendon and I could not put it on.
"The doctor asked me how much pain I was on a scale from 1 to 10. I said 10 and he gave me some Panadol.
"They finally gave me one of those green whistles, and that helped a lot." When I waited, they slipped my foot into a bucket full of really hot water, which apparently is what you can rinse out.
"We went to the local hospital and did an ultrasound and found that three small pieces broke off the tail and got stuck in the tendons, they said they had to do the surgery to remove them." I spent two nights in the hospital.
"They told me that when they looked at it they would have to make a bigger incision on my ankle because they must have room to maneuver and pull out pieces." When I returned to the evaluation a few weeks later, they removed the bandages … and the incision on the ankle was two times longer and everything was covered in blood and it was so frightening that I could not believe it! I did not know it would be so big.
"After about five to six weeks, I could start walking without bullets. I can not imagine that the scar will ever disappear completely.
"In March this year, I was walking along the water on the Black Rock beach and saw a stingray just off the shore, I thought it came back to finish me off.
Jerk fish cobbler
Gabrielle Targett surfed with her members of the rescue club when they went ashore at Whitfords Beach in Perth in 1989. He talks about what happened next:
"I jumped back [the surf ski] to the water, to the seaweed patch, and felt the spike dig into my body under the left bone in my ankle. I thought it was a sharp stick and ran to my boyfriend's car.
"I did not know then, but the spikes on the shoemaker's fish entered my diagonal foot and broke off.
"I wore skis on the roof when Neil (my boyfriend) and I saw that my foot was bleeding." I felt the puncture marks, but I felt something else in them. I tried to rub it but blood poured out.
"I said I thought it was just a sharp stick, but as soon as the words left my mouth, I started screaming, and suddenly I felt a hot poker player pass through my leg, my heartbeat passed over the roof, I could not move, I was sweating.
"My boyfriend has seen this before." He shouted to the others: "Gaby stood on something, a shawl or a shoemaker! I'm taking her to the hospital.
I could not control my scream. I told them, "Take off this coverall!"
"I lay down in the back seat and put the towel in my mouth and said," Bite yourself on it, you'll need it. "He drove me to the Charles Gairdner Hospital, saturated, still in my new suit.
"It was frosty, fiery pain in my whole body – my arms, torso, my head. My nerve endings fired, foam pressed my body and I felt like it was killing me, I would not let my boyfriend touch me, but he said: "I have to get you inside."
"He brought me in, shouting at all my voice, I was a marathon runner, I was used to pushing through the pain line, but I could not control my scream." I told them, "Take off this coverall!" They said, "We have to cut it off." that I do not care.
"They were holding a foot in a bucket of lukewarm water with ammonia, it was like boiling water, I was shouting that they were torturing me, but they kept it there saying they must get the toxin out." The specialist said, "She's one step away. This toxin has spread in her body. Help her with pain.
"It later became clear that my high heartbeat, my adrenaline and running on the beach were pumping toxins around my body.
"They wanted to put the cannula on morphine, but I could not lie down, they had to hold me down and hammer me in the back.
"I spent the next 48 hours on morphine and pethidine, I was hallucinating, and as soon as the pethidine started to fall, my body returned to freezing and fire, it was hell on Earth.
"I've been on crutches for weeks, I've thrown away like a blowfish." A week later, I appeared on crutches in the city to surf to cheer for the team I was supposed to run with. They did not even recognize me.
"It took a month to recover completely, the smaller spike dissolved or slipped out of my knowledge, but a larger spike remained embedded for a year, I swam a lot in the summer learning to swim in Cottesloe, I scratched the page and suddenly spikeed, half a centimeter long and quite thick like a big splinter.
Iveyandji jellyfish invenoming
Alana Rowick was at Broome's family vacation one Sunday morning in 2001, when she and her brother Cam, then 8, felt something on the legs in the water of Cable Beach. She never forgot what happened next:
"I began to feel a sting – a burning, sudden pain, I came ashore and my brother followed me, we both cried, but the rescuer told us that it was just a local jellyfish.
"Multiple two to three millimeter cuffs – in the shape of a circle, very bright red – formed a slightly raised rash around my legs, from the front and back, from mid-thigh to mid-calf.
"I remember feeling irritated, as if it was still painful when I came back to uni.
"I was breathless in 15 minutes, when we all reached the top of the hill, I could not breathe, I thought it was in my head that it was just pain, but then my younger brother started shouting that he could not breathe.
"It quickly seemed to me that my chest was crushed with concrete.
"We all got into the car and we went to the hospital." The doctor said he had never seen anything like it at Broome, he called a toxicological hotline in Perth, which he said sounds like what he saw in Queensland.
"With the passage of the day my brother improved, I got worse.
I spent five days in a coma while they were trying to keep the fluid out of my lungs and my heart was running long enough for the poison to go.
"There was mess and plastic everywhere on the floor, tearing up the parcels, trying to stabilize me and stop the pain – but nothing worked.
"This doctor at Broome saved my life, he sent me to Perth, The Flying Doctors arrived at 6:00 pm I was vomiting during the flight, I saw that my heart rate and blood pressure were not good.
"My dad has a commercial flight next to me." We arrived at Sir Charles Gairdner's hospital at around 23, but I do not remember going to intensive therapy, my heart was failing.
"Later I met people who worked on my heart and said it was like a puddle of jelly with a little bit still working.
"The next day, they told my family to shoot.
"I spent five days in a coma while trying to keep the fluid out of my lungs and my heart functioned long enough for the poison to go.
"I woke up and could not see it, it was dark and I had a tube that looked like a garden hose in my throat, I could not turn my head or raise my hands.
"Even three months later, I could only get up long enough to shower, and it took me several months to regain my heart.
"It was the first documented case of the Irukandja team in WA. Two people who were bitten after me were men at the age of 50 with high blood pressure and both were dead, and I was really lucky."