Box Jellyfish

The northern oceans of Australia are home to an asshole on a level few other creatures could match or would want to. The Adolf Hitler of the seas. The Stalinfish.

The Box Jellyfish is among the deadliest animals in the world. A single large one can have enough venom to kill 60 people. Basically the creature floats about in the ocean with a box shaped head trailing up to 3m (nearly 10 feet) of thin tentacles. Naturally the creature is almost completely transparent. So basically it’s like looking at water, only some of the water in that water is death water. Don’t swim through the death water. You’ll know when you’ve swum through the death water because it will feel like like you’ve been punched by fire.

The burning of a Box Jellyfish sting is sheer screaming agony, and the tentacles will stick and wrap around. The risk level of the sting comes down to how much contact the tentacles made. A single short tentacle on a leg is not too big a deal. In the sense that you will eventually stop screaming. All the tentacles from a large one wrapped around the body? That’s a bad time. Thankfully not a long time - death can occur within a few minutes, and the victim sometimes has a heart attack before being able to get to shore. So that’s a plus. I suppose.

The first treatment is salad dressing. Vinegar is poured on the tentacles to stop them stinging, then they’re carefully pulled off with a gloved hand or tweezers. There is an antivenom that can help if an ambulance can get to the patient. But the remainder of the treatment is basically a valiant medical team fending off the grim reaper with a broom as the patient repeatedly dies.

In early 2000 a 17 year old Australian boy decided to drink a glass of water from the fridge at his local surf lifesaving club. What he didn’t realise was that there was a box jellyfish in the water. In the fridge. Because that’s where you keep it. He swallowed it, or at the very least a part of it. I can’t find the reports to back this up, but from memory he died 18 times. He’s fine now, except for the permanent scarring in his throat.

The Box Jellyfish has other names. It’s referred to in some places as the “Sea Wasp”, or worse still “Stingers”, in a bit of understatement matched only by the Irish Troubles. Swimmers and surfers in Northern Australia wear pantyhose, which surprisingly effective at stopping the venom cells firing off. Even among the most conservative people in the country, moderate cross dressing is a totally acceptable alternative to an agonising death.

Box Jellyfish are known to have killed more than 60 people in Australia. That’s over a pretty long time, though, one every two years or so. Barely a problem. Go have a swim.

Sea Wasp, Sea Stingers
Chironex fleckeri