Giant Saltwater Crocodiles Attack!
It seems any Australian crocodile is at least a giant croc or a killer crocodile, the moment it hits the news...
So what actually happened?
After a long quiet time, without any saltwater crocodile attacks, two Australian men got bitten by a crocodile, in separate incidents, in different parts of Australia, during the first week of 2007.
Here is a bit more information about these crocodile attacks.
(I'm still shaking my head as I'm writing it...)
Crocodile Attack Number 1
This one happened basically on my door step. A 27 year old man by the name of Kerry York went swimming at a place called Ivanhoe Crossing near Kununurra.
That's a popular place for fishing and yes, we also sit in the water there below the crossing and, um, sometimes above I guess... How do I explain that to people who don't know much about saltwater crocodiles...?
Saltwater crocodiles are lazy and they are stalkers. They attack when they have an advantage, when you can't see them and they can sneak up on you. So if you sit in the shallow white water below the crossing, where they would have to work hard to get near you, and where you could see them, then you are reasonably safe.
Let's get one thing straight: you are never 100% safe when you are in or near water if there are saltwater crocodiles in the area. You may say now that we are crazy, but you are never 100% safe when you sit in your car either!
Actually, your chances to get seriously hurt when driving your car are much bigger than the chances of me getting seriously hurt sitting in the water below Ivanhoe Crossing. You can't eliminate all risk from your life, and sitting below Ivanhoe is a reasonably safe thing to do. At least as safe as hitting a highway in your car.
Anyway, Kerry reported that he was in chest deep water. The croc swam up to him, grabbed him a couple of times and buggered of. He got out of the water and his mates took him to hospital.
"Man Rescued From Jaws Of Killer Croc!!"
That was one of the many headlines splashed across newspapers all over the world. Now, the nurse who was on duty when he arrived at hospital happens to be a friend of mine.
He told the nurse that it was a freshy (freshwater crocodile), not a saltwater crocodile, and freshies sure aren't killer crocs. Mind you, their teeth are razor sharp and they can do some serious damage if you upset them, for example by invading what they regard as their territory. Maybe that's what Kerry had done.
Kerry ended up with a few holes in his arm and below his collarbone, they put some stitches in, and he went home.
The hospital had four more people walk in in the same thirty minutes that the croc victim was there. A western brown snake bite, and three(!) people with broken ribs. One had fallen of a horse, one had fallen out of a ute, and one had been kicked in the ribs with steel capped boots. A quiet day in Kununurra... What I'm saying is, Kerry's crocodile bite wasn't such big news here...
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that swimming in the Ord River is a cool thing to do, or that it couldn't have ended real bad, there are big saltwater crocodiles there, but those headlines across the whole world? With all due respect, a bit out of perspective I reckon...
Anyway, the other crocodile bite:
Crocodile Attack Number 2
"Wife Rescues Husband From Giant Croc!!"
That one happened off Little Adolphus Island (near Thursday Island). Sgt. Jeff Tanswell was snorkelling, the crocodile grabbed him, pulled him under, and then decided it's not hungry and let him go. Actually, according to the media he "freed himself from the creature's jaws".
(You can't free yourself from a saltwater crocodile's jaws unless it decides to set you free. They exert several tons of pressure.)
Then his wife heroically maneuvered the boat between the man and the crocodile, sorry, the giant creature, and pulled him to safety. Now, the reporters may not know that, but crocodiles can also swim under water, and if that crocodile had wanted Sgt. Jeff Tanswell the boat wouldn't have stopped it. If that crocodile had really wanted Sgt. Tanswell he'd be gone! (I'm glad that it didn't and that Sgt. Tanswell is alive.)
That crocodile was a saltwater crocodile. It was about three metres (at least at first, it seems to have grown a bit since...) which makes it a good sized saltwater croc, not a giant one. Saltwater crocodiles grow a lot bigger than that.
But now comes the best part: Sgt. Tanswell is not talking to the media because he is negotiating a TV deal! And apparently his injuries were less serious than those of the Kununurra man...
Kerry, man!! You could have made a squillion out of that!
Okay, after all that sarcasm I feel I should make one thing clear:
Saltwater crocodiles are extremely dangerous creatures.
You should take any warnings very seriously. Both these crocodile attacks could have very well ended deadly like many previous crocodile attacks did. Please, if travelling in Australia's north, be crocodile safe.
(Still, what the media do to those stories...)