Tag Archives: Australia

Australia: Land of Creepy Critters and Apex Predators

Editor’s note: This is the latest post from Michael Scully, a journalism professor and friend of Chris Mele’s who will be sending dispatches from his newly adopted home country of Australia. 

Michael will chronicle what it’s like adjusting to things there: the driving, the sites, the culture, and, in this case, the scary scary things that make up the country’s natural world.

BRISBANE, Australia —  It’s a historic fact that when the Pilgrims arrived in North America, they found a stash of food items in cold storage facilities created by the Native Americans and helped themselves.

When the British arrived in Australia, they wandered off the beaches and were killed by all sorts of wild creatures.

Australia is a hard country!

Published recently in a digital publication called Australian “Business Insider” is a story with the headline “The World’s Most Dangerous Venomous Animals are all in Australia,” and the facts are chilling.

There are 40,000 species of spiders and most are venomous, including one they identify as the Sydney funnel-web spider, whose bite can kill a grown man in less than two hours.

And then there is this: A spider here in Queensland carrying a mouse up the face of a refrigerator. That’s right!

The spider is the predator, the mouse the prey. Imagine what New York City would be like if the cockroaches were really in charge!

And if that’s not enough, apparently 20 of the world’s 25 deadliest snakes are here too!

And because the biologists here didn’t have enough to do, they actually found a NEW species of venomous snake in the northern parts of Queensland.

What’s not clear is whether that makes 21 snake species who make bush walking a bit more dangerous than it might be used to.

Beyond all that, it’s unclear why a business website would be publishing this information but clearly it’s part of its editorial mission and my interest as a reader is rising.

Which leads me to a discussion about apex predators.

Absent our intellect, the human animal — given our size, weight, strength and dexterity — would not be the dominant species on the planet and occasionally, other living creatures remind us of that fact:

An alligator killed a woman in Florida recently and a hippo got a tourist in Kenya. These are fresh-water animals who have established themselves atop the food chain, as it were.

But even they’re not safe!

Here in Queensland, the remains of a 12-foot-long crocodile washed ashore after it encountered something that must be much more intense and scary.

Checking the attached photo, you will see the head of the reptile sitting on the beach and judging by the bite marks, things didn’t go very well for the fresh-water monster.

Now consider the following possible narrative: The crock was swimming in an estuary — which is a body of water where fresh water meets salt water — and this reptile must have come across another apex predator that was much larger and more aggressive.

To create the carnage in this photograph, the sea creature (probably a shark) must have attacked from behind, swallowing most of the crocodile before gnashing down in an action that severed the head from the body.

Of course, this is all just speculation… but—come on!

Something ate this crocodile and now it’s out there swimming off the coastline, waiting for its next meal.


Postcards From the Edge (of the World)

Postcards From the Edge (of the World)

Editor’s note: With this blog post, we introduce to you Michael Scully, a journalism professor and friend of Chris Mele’s who will be sending dispatches from his newly adopted home country of Australia. 

Michael will chronicle what it’s like adjusting to things there: the driving, the sites, the culture, and periodically sending us updates about making such a big transition at middle age.

BRISBANE, Australia  — At 53, I just beat the odds.

Immigrating to any country can be difficult but moving from the United States to Australia is downright difficult because they have standards: They want young people and professionals and the government has shrinking quotas.

Before I moved here, I looked at the Australian immigration information online and was surprised to find the following things are true:

To live and work here permanently, you must be 45 years old or younger and they actually have a something called the Skilled Occupation List, which itemizes the professionals the region is seeking to immigrate.

A quick survey of the SOL will show they are seeking doctors, engineers and blue-collar experts as well as hair dressers, pastry chefs and beekeepers… but not, as in my case, journalism professors.

However, I did have a trump card: I was lucky enough to marry an Australian citizen and my promise to her in 2011 was that we’d ultimately find our way back from New England to Brisbane and we began planning.

We submitted a lot of paperwork including letters of recommendation and we hired a lawyer to process it all.

You’d think this would be easier, right?

After all, I married an Australian! Didn’t they want her back?

Once we submitted the paperwork, it took the Australian government 11 months to approve my visa.

Oh! And in the middle of the process, the new White House administration shared a “difficult” conversation with the Aussie prime minister and kept calling him “Mr. Trunbull.”

For the record, his name is Malcolm Turnbull.

All that aside, my wife and I finally got what we wanted and began making provisions for immigration.

On July 6th, we arrived in Australia and are in the process of making the transition toward ordinary life.

We are acquiring bank accounts and credit cards, driver’s licenses, an automobile… and so forth.

We are both surprised by how many little things that we took for granted have become necessary and somewhat difficult to acquire.

For example, the coinage here is as strange as it is in the United States.  Why are the $2 coins smaller than the $1 coins? What are these 12-sided silver coins? And their paper money is the colors of the rainbow!

So, here’s the deal: My friends in the United States have asked me to write about the transition and to make some casual observations about the differences between life in the States and life here in Oz!

Let me start simply: The picture above is a selfie I took on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

I’m looking east toward the Pacific Ocean. It’s winter here and it’s 80 degrees out.