The Ever so Slightly DANGEROUS Joe BlakesOct 13, 2001 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line If a snake bites you, you have been bit.
Aren't we just so lucky. Of the twenty five snakes most likely to send you skywards on this planet, Australia has twenty one of them.
Overseas tourists sometimes get a bit funny about this, but while there aren't kangaroos in the street there aren't snakes in our beds either. Well rarely anyway! In fact only six people are despatched by snakes per year in Australia. Counting tourists that is only six out of twenty five million, rather good odds. You certainly have much more chance of being killed in a car.
The Outback is no worse than anywhere else. Where I live in the hills around the eastern area of Adelaide there are thousands of what is regarded these days as the worlds most dangerous snake. It is not the most poisonous but has more than enough to kill. It is however one of a very few species that will attack with little or no provocation. It is the Australian Brown Snake, otherwise known as the "fierce snake" due to its irascible behaviour.
But, I hasten to add, in fifty years I have not even been attacked and I know very few who have. I don't know anyone who has been bitten, far less died. These are pretty big snakes at six to seven feet long fully grown. Now size doesn't matter all that much except they can reach further when striking at someone or something.
It is not hard to work out where they are and therefore its not hard to avoid them. Fallen old logs and long grass, preferably under shade is their favourite place. So that is the last area I enter. Open fields of very short grass are pretty safe because snakes don't like it too hot, just like us. Equally too cold and of course their system slows right down. They are happiest and most active between about seventy and eighty degrees.
Oh, and I probably should mention all snakes are called "Joe Blakes" in Aussi rhyming slang. But while all snakes are Joe Blakes, not all Joe Blakes are snakes. See, there is probably a Joseph Blake somewhere who is a nice man. If he isn't nice, then he can be a snake too!
Now on the off chance a snake has a munch on you, the best thing to do is die. Alternatively you can get to a doctor or hospital where they will do nothing initially because the closer you come to death the better the story after. Well, actually they do wait because they want to see just how much effect the bite is going to have because antivenom can be counter productive. Of course if you are already foaming at the mouth, in extreme agony and skin is falling off they tend to act a bit quicker.
Giving the wrong antivenom is guaranteed to knock you off - so don't ever have a stab at the type of snake it was. If you can bring it with you safely, preferably dead, the doctor can make a positive identification. But that is not essential since they have the means to identify the snake from the poison on your skin - so don't wash it off! Incidentally, bringing a live snake into a hospital tends to upset the other patients.
If a Blake does bite you it is almost always on a leg, sometimes an arm or hand. Simply wind a bandage around the bite and stay still as possible. The old idea of applying a tourniquet is fine if you want to lose your leg to gangrene. Releasing the tourniquet also causes a rush of blood, and poison, to your vital organs so don't do it!
The bandage on its own will buy you considerable time as it stops the spread of the venom, so don't panic. Often a bite isn't even painful and people sometimes think no venom was introduced - a very big mistake. If the bite area keeps bleeding, your lymph nodes are tender or painful, you suffer headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and/or low blood pressure rest assured he got you good. Other signs are double or blurred vision, paralysis around the face or muscle weakness. These simply mean you are being paralysed! Now it doesn't take a genius to realise something is wrong with any of these things. Don't wait - get the doctor or go to the hospital immediately but calmly.
But please remember, you have to be mighty lucky to have a story like that to tell. Snake bite really is rare, so I am sorry but we can't guarantee you'll have one on your holiday but there are other things to experience so don't be too disappointed.
The reason we have most of the worlds venomous snakes dates back over twenty five million years. When Australia broke away from the huge landmass called Gondwana, sometimes Gondwanaland, a few species of snakes found themselves isolated here from what is now central Asia. Only one of them was poisonous, but it had a whole new land all to itself.
This lump of dirt we now call Australia has a very different climate and habitat than exists in Asia.
So this one species of venomous snake started to evolve into different species depending on where in the country individuals had slithered to - Australia is much less humid generally and more arid than Asia.
In not much more than the blink of an eye, twenty five odd million years later, give or take a year, that one Joe Blake evolved into more than eighty different poisonous inbred slitherers we have today. That is the largest number of different species of heart stoppers in the world, and includes most of the worst of them. These days they are not called ugg and uggy ugg any more but taipans, tigers, brown, black, and the little death adders. There is no truth in the rumour that death adders keep count of what they kill. Scientists, who just have to be different, call the whole mob by the name elapids.
When the Blakes first started evolving they made a big blue (mistake). They used to lay eggs but in the colder areas they wouldn't hatch. So most of those snakes headed back north. However there was one Einstein species of a snake that had a better idea (currently called Politicians I think). Instead of laying eggs it held them within its body and gave birth to live young. It only took it five million years to work out how to do it and make the necessary body changes, so this snake was no mug....er......galah....er.. idiot.
Snakes only really have one predator. No, not us because they are protected. Their predator is the Kookaburra. There is nothing much a Kookaburra likes more than some snake steak, rare of course. To kill a snake they use various methods but mostly if it is quite small the just peck or bite it but with big snakes, up to about seven feet, they swoop on their tails, fly up with the snake dangling head down and bash it on a tree trunk.
Snakes that long can be too heavy in which case they "kooka" simply drops them - this is probably where the expression "snakey" comes from, meaning as mad as hell. Snakes don't usually see the funny side of that and are just a touch aggressive for some time afterwards! They don't seem to take into consideration they were almost killed.
More typically four or five footers are the prey and Kookaburras have no great difficulty in sending their souls to Joe Blake heaven.
The last thing of note about snakes in Australia is that, for the most part, they are difficult to identify. "Brown" snakes can be black and there are many different black species all appearing very similar. This of course results from them all coming from the one species but causes problems when someone is bitten. Fortunately the relatively new snake identification kits, that identify the snake by the actual poison inflicted, are so important.
Now, snakes are something to be aware of by not overly concerned about. To the best of my knowledge tourists fall victim to crocodiles rather than snakes. Crocodiles are only along the northern coastal fringe and those killed or injured have almost begged to be. Following simple and commonsense advice, even crocodiles will not cause any grief.
So you are quite safe coming here. I just believe you need to know these creatures exist. Whether or not you wish to experience a snake bite is up to you.
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