I know we only had an Australia and New Zealand magazine article last week, but again I am trying to catch up a bit. So here’s another one, and it’s probably good timing. If any of you have been following my recent road trip, then you will know that last time I wrote about it we were in and around Cairns.
So here’s my article about ‘swimming with crocodiles’, it appeared in their October edition. They called it…
You have been warned!
Go to any beach in Australia and I’m pretty sure you’ll find some kind of warning sign or other. Swimming in the sea can be dangerous no matter which country you are in, so it’s only fair to warn people of the potential dangers before they take a dip. I suspect it is the job of the local council to ensure that all the relevant information is included on the warning signs on their beaches.
I have a picture of such a sign on this page, this one is from Mackay. Let’s take a closer look at it.
There are two main hazard warnings on this sign, the first being the potential for marine stingers in the area. Good advice, these critters are a real danger, particularly on any beach north of Rockhampton. Every day in Mackay selected beaches are dragged with nets for all kinds of marine stingers and if just one is found, the beach is closed for 24 hours.
The next warning is of possible strong currents, so that’s sensible advice as well. The sign then informs you that this beach is not patrolled; that’s not good news for those who fancy a swim. I would advise anybody anywhere in Australia to only swim between the flags on patrolled beaches.
That’s it for this sign, the warnings are complete.
Below those warnings the rules of this particular beach are covered, which are; don’t drop litter and no camping, horse riding, cycling, driving or fires. Fair enough.
With that, the sign is complete. Nothing else to add. Although possibly somebody, somewhere in the council wasn’t so sure. “Maybe we should also tell them about the crocodiles?” And with that, they stuck a tiny little triangle at the bottom with the picture of a croc with his mouth wide open, about to take a bite.
What a bite it is as well, all 3,700 pounds per square inch, the strongest bite ever measured.
The strange thing is though, well I certainly find it strange, is that people do still swim in these seas. I was on one of these beaches recently and decided to ask a local why people take the risk to go for a dip. He agreed that there were risks, but went on to say that you can minimise them.
Swim between the flags, stay away from beaches close to the river systems, don’t swim at night-time and swimming during the summer is more dangerous than in winter.
So what are the risks?
The statistics do confirm that the risks are quite minimal. On average, there is less than one fatality a year due to crocodile attacks. The exact figures for the 20 year period from 1994 to 2013 are 15 deaths. Most of those deaths would have been in rivers, creeks or billabongs. It is very rare for a croc attack to occur on any of the beaches between Rockhampton and Cairns.
Despite all that, my local man ended with “Personally, I wouldn’t swim at any of the beaches around here.”
I am with him on that one, especially as these seas are also home to sharks, information that really was missing from that sign. Luckily there are plenty of swimming pools and lagoons in these areas that are perfectly safe. I prefer no risk to minimal risk.
This is a rather shortsighted piece. First off, you stand a better chance of dying while showering at home than being a victim of a shark. Thousands engage in waterborne activities throughout the NE of Australia and the injuries from any of the hazards are statistically insignificant. In other words, don’t be stupid, but do enjoy yourself. As a matter of fact, you stand a much better probability of being victimized by criminals in South Beach, Miami than being attacked by a croc in NE Australia!
I thought it was light-hearted rather than shortsighted. I even explained that the risks are minimal under the heading “So what are the risks?”
I agree, I’d rather take a dip of the coast of Mackay than walk the beaches in Miami.
Are these risks the same for swimming in the rest of Australia?
No, it’s only the northern coastlines of Australia, anywhere south of Rockhampton on the east coast all the way round to Perth would certainly be crocodile free. Just the sharks to worry about in those parts 🙂