Deadly fingernail-sized jellyfish hit sailor on the face

Posted at 01/11/10 4:43 PM

SYDNEY, Australia - A sailor had an unlucky encounter with a deadly irukandji jellyfish in Australia's northern waters after the tiny marine animal somehow hit him as he fished off a bulk carrier, officials said Monday.

The Central Queensland Helicopter Rescue Service said it was not known whether the man reeled in the jellyfish, which is the size of a small fingernail, or whether it was splashed on to him by a freak wave.

"He was splashed in the face but I don't know that it was in that water," a spokeswoman for the rescue service told AFP. "It could have been something he reeled in."

The man, who was an hour's flight away from the Queensland coast when he was stung, was fishing from the deck of the carrier about 25 metres (yards) above the water level when he was stung by the extremely venomous creature.

"Realistically, what are the chances of being stung by a jellyfish when you are safely on board a bulk carrier 25 metres above the water. It's really incredible," said Geoff Abrahams, an air crewman on the rescue.

There's no antivenom for the irukandji's sting and the pain may not be immediately felt, by which time symptoms have set in, including shooting muscle pain, vomiting, a rapid rise in blood pressure and occasionally heart failure.