Kathreen Ricketson and Robert Shugg were fatally stung by irukandji, the world’s most venomous creature. The tragedy made more horrific as it happened in sight of their young children on shore. Ricketson was pulled from the water and, as rescuers attempted resuscitation, Shugg slipped below surface. His body was found on shore last week.
The Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation reported irukandji jellyfish had been spotted there a month earlier, with an unprecedented number of people stung in April (13 confirmed cases, against previous records of about two cases a month).
Irukandji jellyfish measure about 2.5cm in diameter and extremely venomous. Australia does post beach signage at known areas of jellyfish infestation, but how to protect eco-tourists like Ricketson, Shugg and their 5000 Twitter followers who don’t always stick to controlled natural settings where warnings can be broadcast and beaches closed?
The family was four months into a year-long trip around Australia, documenting their travels as part of an online blog, with plans to publish a companion book titled The Family Road Trip. They lived in Canberra, where they published a kid’s e-magazine called Action Pack and Whipup.net, a leading voice in the online craft community.
Former Treehugger columnist Ricketson had used social media to promote her blog just hours before her death, linked to a jellyfish attack. So terribly sad. And terrifying. Short of earning a degree in marine biology, how do we stay safe in changing seas?
A trust fund has been set up for the couple’s children. Anyone wishing to contribute can find the details here.