all right

Occasionally adding corroborative details to add verisimilitude to otherwise bald and unconvincing,
but veridicous accounts
with careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination.

16 July, 2011

Playing with Fire

Jeff Dawson, of The Daily Mail, back in June, wrote (or, perhaps, uncritically transcribed) “The world according to Rose Byrne” wherein we find this:
Every time I visit my parents I have to watch out for deadly brown snakes.
My mum and dad run a garlic farm in Tasmania and the landscape is just stunning, wild and rugged, but it’s infested with snakes – if you get bitten you’ve got to get an antivenom shot within 35 minutes or you could die.  Most people keep the shots on the farm, but my parents don’t.  They’re playing with fire. It’s worse in the summer, but you see them all the time.  My parents laugh about it, but it’s scary.  I’ll take precautions if I’m doing any bush walks. I’m not a fan of snakes.
We have only three species of snake in Tasmania: the Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus—sometimes called a brown snake, black snake or king snake), which has extremely toxic venom but, having also a primitive, inefficient set of fangs, is not often lethal to human beings; the Lowland Copperhead (Austrelaps superbussometimes called a brown snake) which also has very toxic venom but, having also a primitive, inefficient set of fangs, is not often lethal to human beings; and the small White-lipped Snake (Drysdalia coronoides, often called a whip snake when I was young) which has toxic venom but, having also a primitive, inefficient set of fangs, is very seldom lethal to human beings.  I’ve met a few people who survived snakebites.  One of the simplest precautions to minimise the chances of a lethal snakebite when walking in the Tasmania bush is to wear trousers and thick socks—bush-walking with sandals, no socks and bare legs is not a particularly good idea.
I have never met a farmer in Tasmania who keeps anti-venom shots, and I have lived in Tasmania all my life, and often wandered in the bush around my boyhood home or around relatives’ farms as a lad.  My older brothers and I often encountered snakes.  Once, when I was three or four (riding on the back of a tricycle ridden by a brother), we ran over a snake who seemed unhurt by the experience.  When I and my two older brothers were in high school we caught a tiger snake which we kept (illegally) in our father’s toolbox.  We milked it of its venom a few times because my brothers had a cunning plan of offering a venom-soaked handkerchief to someone, say, with a bleeding wound one day.  We’d occasionally let the snake loose on the lawn when we played cricket, but my eldest brother foolishly tried to scare a neighbour with the inoffensive serpent, and my father ordered that we release it.  Instead, my brother took it to school—Riverside High School—where a teacher killed, stuffed, coiled and displayed the poor reptile—it might be there still—and kept the toolbox.

(Thanks to It’s Fair Comment for the link.)

UPDATE (17 July):  Also to be found in the Tasmanian bush is the Jack Jumper (Myrmecia pilosula)—jack jumpers kill more people in Tasmania each year (from the resultant anaphylaxis, usually) than snakes, spiders and jellyfish and sharks combined—and the Inchman (Myrmecia forficata), a Tasmanian bull ant which is about an inch long and which has a nasty bite and—I speak feelingly—an excruciating (and potentially lethal) sting.  The aforementioned boots, thick socks and trousers are a good defence against these satanic insects.
In some parts of Tasmania you may also find the Red-back Spider (Latrodectus hasselti) which is, I learn from a little web-searching, slow-moving and fairly non-aggressive; well, try walking into a shed in the warmer months full of dozens of randy female red-backs scrambling towards you and then come back to me saying how slow-moving they are.
See also “Deadly Poisonous Creatures”.


ItsFairComment said...

thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

A couple of things about the Red Back:
1 - the last person to die of spider venom in Australia was in 1981 (when spider anti venom was introduced).

2 - Even completely untreated, Red Back venom will only kill someone who is weak to begin with (eg Elderly or infants) In fact hospitals generally don't give Red Back anti venom to healthy adults because it is so difficult to produce.

The biggest danger is allergic reaction. In those terms a bee sting or a peanut would be dramatically more dangerous.

Just confirms your Rose Byrne point...