- It can kill in less than two minutes
- 63 lives claimed in Australia since 1884
- Its poison kills faster than a Taipan
Meet the Box Jellyfish
The real name of the box jellyfish is Chironex Fleckeri and it is sometimes known as the sea wasp. I always hated wasps, the buzzing black and yellow flying type, but compared to the sea wasp those things are like cuddly teddies.
The box jellyfish is mainly a problem on the northern coastal areas of Australia, about 200 km above Brisbane and all the way round, past Darwin to the north-west.
It has been suggested that there are hundreds of sea wasp stings per year yet, on average, it takes less than one life annually. Why is that? Ever seen one of those adverts for some sort of book that says “Vinegar – How to Cure Just about Everything!” – Well it actually works and can saves the lives of those stung by the box jellyfish.
If contact is made with a tentacle of a box jellyfish, it will stick to the skin and begin to release lethal toxins. Pouring vinegar (for at least 30 seconds) over the tentacle prevents any further injection and allows it’s careful removal (wear gloves or wrap a cloth round your hand). Many lives have been saved in this way with vinegar.
Sometimes beaches are closed down because of the box jellyfish, particularly during the mating season which unfortunately falls between October and April. Sort of like all through the summer.
Some popular beaches have fixed up netting to keep them out. And many beaches where the jellyfish may be a problem have bottles of vinegar right there next to the warning sign about the killer.
“Great, they’ve got some vinegar. Fancy a dip?”
I don’t think so! I’ll be looking to the nearest swimming pool.
But the box jellyfish may end up being our friend. Scientists have been gathering up their venom to find out why it has such an instant and deathly effect on the heart. If they can reverse engineer that, the box jellyfish may just end up saving lives instead of taking them.
But for now, just add it to the list of dangerous sea creatures.