The Mad Aussie Who Stung Himself and His 9 Yr Previous Son With a Lethal Creature FOR SCIENCE!!!


Australia is notorious for its abundance of absurdly harmful wildlife. From highly-venomous brown snakes and funnelweb spiders to large saltwater crocodiles and nice white sharks, almost every little thing that slithers, crawls, or swims within the Land Down Underneath appears completely designed to inflict essentially the most horrible dying doable. However one Aussie creature stands above the remainder, its sting so painful its victims actually beg for dying. It’s a creature so mysterious and elusive that up till 60 years in the past, science didn’t even comprehend it existed.

For 1000’s of years, the Aborigines of Australia’s northern coasts have recognized that to swim within the ocean between the months of November and Might is to threat an ordeal painful past description. At first, the sufferer feels solely a light burning sensation, no extra painful than a bee sting. However ten to fifteen minutes later, they’re instantly struck down with a crippling mixture of signs. As Australian biologist Lisa Gershwin explains:

“It provides you unimaginable decrease again ache that you’d consider as much like an electrical drill drilling into your again. It provides you relentless nausea and vomiting. How does vomiting each minute to 2 minutes for as much as 12 hours sound? Unimaginable. It provides waves of full physique cramps, profuse sweating … the nurses must wring out the mattress sheets each quarter-hour. It provides you very nice issue in respiratory the place you simply really feel like you may’t catch your breath. It provides you this bizarre muscular restlessness so you may’t cease shifting however each time you progress it hurts.”

And if that weren’t sufficient, victims are additionally usually struck with an amazing feeling of looming dread:

“Sufferers imagine they’re going to die and so they’re so sure of it that they’ll truly beg their medical doctors to kill them simply to get it over with.”

If the sufferer is fortunate, these methods persist for as much as 24 hours earlier than step by step fading away. If not, extreme hypertension can result in dying from coronary heart failure or cerebral haemorrhage.

As increasingly more white Australians started dwelling and vacationing within the space across the Nice Barrier Reef, experiences of this mysterious syndrome started trickling again to the medical neighborhood. Among the many first to review the phenomenon was Dr. Ronald Southcott, who within the Nineteen Forties  dubbed the incidents “Sort A Stingings” to differentiate them from the extra well-known “Sort B Stingings” inflicted by Chironex Fleckeri, the Australian Field Jellyfish. The Field Jellyfish is the bane of each Australian swimmer. Rising as much as 30 centimetres broad with 60 tentacles 4 metres lengthy, their nematocysts are among the many quickest objects within the pure world and are highly effective sufficient to penetrate the carapace of a crab. The venom they ship is so potent {that a} mere two metres of tentacle can kill a grown man in underneath two minutes. And if that wasn’t sufficient, in contrast to common jellyfish that are largely blind and drift passively with ocean currents, field jellyfish possess 24 surprisingly refined eyes and may swim at speeds as much as 3 knots. These creatures have killed round 100 Australians since record-keeping started and critically injured numerous extra, and concern of them often shuts down seashores for six months of the 12 months throughout a 5000-kilometre stretch of Australia’s northern coast. However regardless of its ubiquity, the venom of the Field Jellyfish didn’t match the highly-specific signs of Sort A Stingings – nor did any of the opposite ‘common suspects’ just like the Portuguese Man ’o Battle.

Southcott’s analysis was taken up within the Fifties by Dr. Hugo Flecker, a pioneer of jellyfish analysis and the namesake of Chironex Fleckeri. Whereas Flecker suspected that Sort A Stingings had been brought on by some form of jellyfish, he was unable to search out any nematocysts – the syringe-like stinging cells jellyfish use to inject their venom – on any victims. Unable to finger a definitive perpetrator, in 1952 Flecker grouped the signs collectively underneath the identify “Irukandji Syndrome,” after an Aboriginal tribe native to the world of Northern Australia the place the phenomenon was most typical.

For almost a decade the reason for Irukandji Syndrome remained a thriller, till in 1958 an eccentric physician named Jack Barnes arrived within the northern city Cairns. Born on April 2, 1922 on a sheep station exterior Charleville, Queensland, in 1942 Jack Handyside Barnes suspended his medical research to enlist within the Australian Imperial Pressure and spent the warfare preventing the Japanese on the island of Timor. After the warfare he returned to medication, turning into Medical Superintendent of Thursday Island Hospital earlier than establishing his personal observe in Cairns in 1958. That 12 months he was tasked by the native department of the British Medical Affiliation with lastly monitoring down the reason for Irukandji Syndrome.

In line with his affiliate Dr. Graham Cossins, Barnes was:

“…irritable and belligerent, … demanding and demanding, unsociable and impolite…however underneath that gruff exterior was a kindly and compassionate affiliate”.

This prickly character additionally belied the sharp and analytical thoughts of a detective, which allowed Barnes to make a number of key deductions about his prey. First, as no one had ever seen the creature, Barnes reasoned it have to be very small and almost clear. Second, as most victims had been stung in comparatively shallow water, it should keep near the floor. Third, as stingings tended to happen in clusters, it should happen in massive numbers; and at last, the creature have to be cellular, as none had ever been discovered washed up on the seaside. Poring via hospital experiences, Barnes found that 85% of Irukandji circumstances occurred in solely two locations: Palm and Ellis Seashores. And after analyzing tidal charts, he rapidly found why: each winter, sustained northerly winds reversed native tidal flows, bringing in recent currents from the Timor and Coral Seas – and with them the causative agent of Irukandji Syndrome. It was right here that Barnes centered his seek for the elusive Irukandji creature.

Over the following three years, Barnes spent lots of of hours sitting on the seafloor in a weighted diving go well with, laying out traps cobbled collectively from flour sifters and staring upwards within the hopes of recognizing the creature’s silhouetted in opposition to the daylight filtering down from the floor. It was tedious, unrewarding work, with Barnes’ traps rapidly turning into clogged with assorted marine life. However on December 10, 1961, his persistence paid off as he lastly discovered what he was searching for: a tiny, nearly-transparent jellyfish barely greater than a centimetre throughout. On the identical day, one other specimen was caught by lifeguard Don Ludbey, who observed a small, almost invisible creature clinging by one tentacle to an erratically-swimming fish.

However was this tiny creature actually the reason for Irukandji Syndrome? Whereas most scientists would have began by analyzing the venom’s chemical composition or testing the creature’s sting on an animal, Barnes had different concepts, skipping straight to human experimentation. As for the take a look at topics, this included Barnes himself, in fact, together with native lifeguard Chilla Ross and, controversially, Barnes’ personal 9-year-old son, Nick. Barnes’ description of what occurred subsequent, from his 1964 paper Trigger and Impact in Irukandju Stinging, is disturbingly medical and indifferent, maybe appropriately for a father who little doubt sentenced his son to a lifetime of crippling belief points:

“The primary Carybdeid was utilized to an grownup (J.B.), and to a boy, aged 9 years (N.B.). A sturdy younger life-saver (C.R.) volunteered to check the second specimen, of comparable dimension to the primary. The jellyfish was positioned in touch with the inside floor of the higher arm of every volunteer. The consequences weren’t lengthy in coming.

The lad reported gentle belly ache twelve minutes after being stung, and two minutes later declared he had an ache in each armpits, that belly ache was worsening quickly, and that his again was hurting. Inside 20 minutes, the 2 adults famous aching in each axillae, adopted virtually instantly by backache and by discomfort across the decrease ribs anteriorly. Again ache was maximal within the sacral space, deep and “boring” in nature.

Extreme belly ache, essentially the most fixed function of the Irukandji syndrome, was properly established in all circumstances inside half-hour. … Topics had been seized with a outstanding restlessness, and had been in fixed motion. … Because the pains elevated, initiative was notably depressed, and cerebration, although correct, was decidedly sluggish. … Palpation of painful areas, now together with legs and arms, confirmed muscle teams in tonic contraction, little wanting spasm. This presumably explains the peculiar postures famous, for extremes of flexion and extension had been prevented, and the volunteers adopted a stance, which I can greatest liken to that of an toddler with a full nappy.”

In the course of the 20 minutes drive to Cairns, the victims had been in appreciable misery, heightened, it appeared by the need to stay seated. All had belly and again ache, ache within the anterior chest wall with some issue in respiratory, and diffuse aches in muscular tissues and joints. … N.B. felt very chilly and was shivering violently.

Forty minutes after the stinging, the belly musculature of the three topics was in unrelenting spasm, so inflexible as to warrant absolutely the time period “board-like.” … Undoubtedly, the arrival of coughing and retching marked the height of distress for the 2 adults. Every spasm elevated the gripping pains within the chest and stomach, and as these eased, the cycle was repeated.” 

This absurdly reckless experiment confirmed Barnes’ suspicion: that this tiny, seemingly innocuous jellyfish was certainly the reason for the mysterious Irukandji Syndrome. Following the publication of Barnes’ groundbreaking paper in 1964, the creature was dubbed Carukia barnesi in his honour. Over the following two decade, Barnes devoted his life to the research of the Irukandji and different jellyfish, mobilizing a community of medical practitioners to report circumstances of Irukandji stingings and inform bathers of the hazards. In the middle of his analysis, he found that many jellyfish refuse to sting although an artificial barrier, and took to carrying ladies’s pantyhose whereas wading within the ocean to gather samples. This observe was quickly broadly adopted amongst lifeguards. Barnes additionally pioneered the now-common observe of washing a jellyfish sting with alcohol or vinegar to kill any remaining stinging cells. Barnes was appointed a Member of the British Empire in 1970 for his work and died in 1985 of a coronary heart assault. Although he in the end succeeded in passing on his mad scientist genes, his reckless strategy to toxicology received him the title of “At-Danger Survivor” on the 1997 Darwin Awards.

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Bonus Info:

In case snakes, spiders, jellyfish, crocodiles, and sharks aren’t sufficient to discourage you from visiting Australia, listed here are a couple of extra lesser-known harmful animals native to the Land Down Underneath.

Whereas the Irukandji and Field jellyfish are notorious for his or her painful stings, if you happen to actually wish to know what ache is, then merely discover the closest Stonefish and step on it. Comprising 5 species native to the Pacific and Indian oceans, stonefish are so-named for his or her outstanding resemblance to an algae-covered rock, which permits them to put completely camouflaged among the many coral ready for prey to swim by. If threatened or stepped on, the stonefish raises a set of razor-sharp dorsal fin spines which may simply pierce a sandal or diving boot and inject essentially the most highly effective venom of any recognized fish. The impact of this venom is commonly described because the worst ache on the planet – a lot in order that dying by stonefish is usually due to not the venom itself however relatively shock induced by the sheer agony. Fortunately, nonetheless, an antivenin is out there, and treating the wound with very popular water successfully breaks down and neutralizing the venom, which means that fatalities are comparatively uncommon.

Again on the floor, maybe essentially the most well-known Australian chicken is the Emu, an enormous flightless ratite well-known for defeating a military of machine-gun-wielding troopers in what has come to be often called the Emu Battle of 1932. However as badass as this feat is, the Emu has nothing on the Cassowary. Standing 2 metres tall and able to working at speeds of as much as  50km/hr,  the Cassowary is armed with a fearsome 12-centimetre claw on its centre toe able to inflicting a lethal kick when threatened. Its cranium can be outfitted with a thick bony ridge or “casque” that enables the chicken to run full-tilt via dense vegetation. Regardless of its intimidating look, nonetheless, the Cassowary is a shy and solitary chicken, dwelling primarily on fruits and berries within the dense rainforests of Northwestern Australia. Nonetheless, in recent times city and agricultural growth has result in the numerous lack of the Cassowary’s most well-liked habitat, more and more forcing the birds to wander into city areas searching for meals – and rising the probabilities of a lethal encounter with people.

However if you happen to thought for a second that you just’d discover security within the realm of flying birds, suppose once more. In 2017, an article within the Journal of Ethnobiology by Robert Gosford, Mark Bonta and others introduced the primary recoded proof of a phenomenon that had been reported by Australian Aborigines for 1000’s of years. The workforce noticed birds of prey such because the Black Kite, Whistling Kite, and Brown Falcon lifting burning branches from brushfires and utilizing them to begin fires elsewhere. The birds would then decide off mice and different small animals fleeing the blaze or feast on the charred corpses of those who didn’t make it. Due to course corpse consuming arsonist birds are a factor in Australia.

And eventually we come to that the majority distinctively bizarre of all Aussie animals- the duck-billed platypus. Whereas this egg-laying, half-duck, half-beaver-looking creature could look lovely and innocent, the male of the species packs a robust punch within the type of two sharp spurs on its hind legs. These are able to delivering a peptide-based venom whose results have been described as excruciating and proof against most typical painkillers similar to morphine. The intensive swelling induced by the venom can final for months, whereas residual ache can persist for years. Curiously, the fossil file means that till comparatively not too long ago, venomous spurs had been a standard function of many mammals, with the platypus being the only real surviving possessor of this trait. And, in fact, the only real survivor of this one would exist in Australia…

Develop for References

What’s the Worst a Jellyfish May Do? Irukandji Syndrome, Gelatinous Sting, April 15, 2020,


Romm, Cari,  Apparently There’s a Jellyfish Whose Sting Causes Emotions of Impending Doom, The Reduce, April 28, 2016,


Gussow, Leon, The Wonderful and Weird Discovery of Irukandji Syndrome, Emergency Medication Information, April 2005,


Fenner, Peter & Hadsk, John, Deadly Envenomation by Jellyfish Inflicting Irukandji Syndrome, Medical Journal of Australia, October 7, 2002,


Raffaele, Paul, Killers in Paradise, Smithsonian Journal, June 2005,


Baker, Joe, Barnes, John Handyside (Jack)(1922-1985), Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2007,


Pant, Anupum, Jack Barnes and Irukandji Syndrome, WESCI,


Nickson, Chris, Jack Barnes and the Irukandji Enigma, Life within the Quick Lane, July 1, 2019,


Millward, Adam, Why the Cassowary is the World’s Most Harmful Hen, Guinness World Data, April 15, 2019,


Maguire, Dannielle, Australian Birds “Firehawks” Intentionally Unfold Fires in Unimaginable Searching Approach,,


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