The Worst Ways To Die In Australia
In a number that is surprisingly low, an average of three Australians die every year at the mouths of great white sharks. One of the latest victims, 24-year-old Ben Linden, had a fatal bout near Wedge Island 80 miles north of Perth. A jet skier rode out to save him, but “Brutus” — the nickname for the shark that locals gave after seeing him in the days leading up — attacked the jet ski. It was the fifth fatal shark attack in the last 10 months (at the time).
In Aussieland they’re called “Salties,” and they kill an average of 20 people a year. In one of the oddest stories of fortune and misfortune, German national Isabel von Jordan and her friend left a Bali nightclub that was attacked by a terrorist bombing in October 2002, killing 202 people, an hour before it happened. Then 10 days later, Isabel was attacked by a terrorist of the Outback.
At 11 p.m. on October 22, an idiotic tour guide who would later be convicted for gross negligence offered the suggestion that they go swimming at Sandy Creek. Tourist James Rothwell recalled, “I felt a bang on my leg and seconds later heard a girl scream. And the girl went under the water.” It was a 15-foot, 1,110-pound Saltie monster. In the moonlight, they witnessed Isabel’s limp body in its mouth: “It was sitting in the water like a dog with a bone,” another witness put it.
A nine-day heatwave that saw temperatures hover around 113 degrees Fahrenheit resulted in the Black Saturday Bushfires of 2009. It claimed the lives of 173 Victorians, and injured 414. In the nine days, 400 individual fires ravaged 2,029 homes. It was the worst Australian bushfire of all time. For comparison, the Black Friday Bushfire — not to be confused with that ridiculous American holiday — killed 71 people in 1939.
In the past century, there have been 60 deaths caused by Box Jellyfish stings in Australia. A recent encounter with a Box Jellyfish as described by famous endurance swimmer Diana Nyad will send chills up your spine.
On her third swim from Cuba to Florida, Nyad was struck by indescribable pain. Although she’s dealt with a litany of dangerous encounters, including sharks, storms and hypothermia, she says that the Box Jellyfish is the only one that still haunts her nightmares. She told People that it’s “an otherworldly, science-fiction pain. You felt that your body had been dipped in hot, burning wax oil. I still have kind of a post-traumatic fear over that whole episode. I wake up in the middle of the night with chills and screaming out, ‘Help me, help me, I’m on fire, I’m on fire!'”
This peanut-sized predator weighs an ounce, but it packs a deadly punch. In 2013, snorkeling couple Kathreen Ricketson and Rob Shuff were discovered facedown in the waters of the Ningaloo Reef. To make matters more depressing, their children found them. Although they were never able to confirm that it was the Irukandji, locals saw teeming schools of this horrifying sea peanut in the area. Their deaths were ruled as drownings.
In 2006, Sarah Whiley screamed, “Shark!” Her friends thought she was joking. They only took her seriously when they saw a pool of blood appear in the shallow waters of North Stradbroke Island. The 21-year-old was mauled by three bull sharks. Her hands were torn off and her legs were mutilated. Australia’s second-deadliest shark caused Whiley to die from shock and massive blood loss.
The Infamous Gympie Gympie Tree
Researchers whisper that scientists are studying it for biological warfare. It’s said to cause victims to want to commit suicide because of its excruciating sting. “There’s nothing to rival it. It’s 10 times worse than anything else,” said Ernie Rider, who was stung in 1963. Rider said the pain persisted for two years and recurred every time he took a shower.
One popular Gympie Gympie tale claims a World War II soldier took his own life after wiping his buttocks with its leaves. Some have told stories of horses jumping off of cliffs due to the indescribable pain. The moral? Don’t go hiking in Australia’s jungles.
Ironically, the driest place in the world is home to some of the world’s meanest floods. In the past 150 years, there have been 1,000 deaths due to cataclysmic torrents. In December 2010, Cyclone Tasha ripped through Brisbane and southeast Queensland. A confirmed 35 people died. More than 28,000 homes were destroyed and 200,000 people were affected altogether. This month-long flood caused a total of $2.38 billion in damages.
Sweltering Desert Heat
Australia’s weather is known to attract many a Brit retiree, but its vast inland desert has claimed countless lives. In 2012, while on a trip through Queensland to inspect bores, 25-year-old Mauritz Pieterse and his friend were stranded after their truck stalled. They decided to brave six miles under 113-degree Fahrenheit heat. Pieterse’s workmate survived, and when he went back to look for him, Pieterse was curled up under a bush, dead, due to heat exhaustion.
They say if you’re bit in the abdomen, you’re toast. These hairy, black sons of bitches are the second-deadliest spiders in Australia. In 2014, a six-year-old girl picked one up, thinking it was a toy, and it bit her finger. Fifteen minutes later she screamed, “Mummy I can’t see.” The Australian funnel-web spider bite made her blind, caused her to vomit, and made her sweat so much that her clothes were soaked. Luckily, she was swiftly taken to a Sydney hospital where she survived. There have been 13 recorded funnel-web deaths.
To quote one victim of Australia’s stonefish, “Imagine having each knuckle, then wrist, elbow, and shoulder being hit with a sledgehammer over the course of about an hour. Then imagine taking a real kicking to both kidneys for about 45 minutes.” These creatures, which look like rocks covered in excrement, are never to be touched. However, the only recorded death by stonefish happened in 1915 to military doctor Joseph Wassell.
The inland Taipan has enough venom to kill more than 100 men. It is the third most venomous land snake in the entire world. In April, snake catcher Wayne Cameron died doing what he loved. A Coastal Taipan “grazed his arm,” or so he thought, but he died 50 minutes later in Rockhampton Hospital.
Towering Coastal Cliffs
North of Sydney are some of the world’s most picturesque ocean cliffs. They are also deadly. Cambridge graduate and devout base jumper Gareth Jones was with his friends in the early morning hours of December 2014 watching the sunrise. He wanted to get a better view, so he got closer to the edge, when he slipped. Jones fell 300 feet onto the jagged rocks below. Eerily, he posted photos on Instagram in the same location just two days before his death.
We’ve documented this bizarre death, but it bears repeating. In 1926, a teenager named Philip McClean was killed by this giant taloned bird when he and his hunting friend encountered it. The Cassowary attacked and the boys tried to beat it with baseball bats. It leapt up into the air like a ninja and kicked McClean in the jugular, causing the 16-year-old to bleed to death. If you see a Cassowary in Australia, don’t pet it. Run.
European Honey Bees
If you thought the only European things in Australia were those convicts delivered there in the 18th century, you would be wrong. Something else caught a lift on those boats. Around 16 Australians are killed every year by swarms of honey bees.