Fearless woman's 'incredible' encounter with Australia's deadly sea creatures

The ocean enthusiast found herself surrounded by dangerous jellies, but she loved every minute of it.

While most ocean swimmers would run when faced with potential danger from one of its many deadly sea creatures, Alison McNeice enjoys getting up close and personal with them.

The fearless Tasmanian woman, who has a background in zoology, says she likes nothing more than being in the sea, surrounded by some of the most poisonous or dangerous marine animals found in Australian waters.

This week, while visiting Kingston Beach in Hobart where she lives, she was met with an "incredible" jellyfish bloom after warmer waters brought them closer to shore. Various species, including toxic bluebottles, surrounded McNeice who was in the water at the time — but rather than be scared, she was in her element.

Left: A sea of jellyfish. Tasmian woman Alison McNeice right.
Tasmian woman Alison McNeice loves getting up close and personal with potentially dangerous sea animals. Source: Alison McNeice
The various jellyfish species, including bluebottles.
Various species, including bluebottles, surrounded McNeice who was in the water at the time. Source: Alison McNeice

"Jellies are such cool creatures. They have no brains, but they have a simple nerve net on their bell that transmits information to all their cells," she told Yahoo News Australia. "Their tentacles have tiny cells called nematocysts that have little needles that deliver their venom. They are the weirdest animal ever and I love them".

"I'm hyper-aware of the dangers, particularly with bluebottles, but by the time I had realised there were so many, I had already been bumped into by several and not felt a thing," she added. "I kept a distance from the tiny possible bluebottles though, I've heard their sting is quite nasty and even at 1cm in size I wasn't going to test the theory".

Deadly pufferfish among favourites to 'hang out with'

McNeice wasn't entirely sure of the species she'd encountered, however, moon jellies and lion's mane — which can deliver a painful sting — are commonly spotted off the Tasmanian coast. Meanwhile, the Australian box jellyfish is the world’s most venomous marine creature.

"I love snorkelling and will go as often as I can when the water's warm enough," she said. "I'm not entirely naive when it comes to dangerous ocean animals and honestly more fascinated than anything."

Alison found herself swimming among a bloom of jellyfish, including bluebottles (left). Source: Supplied
Alison found herself swimming among a bloom of jellyfish, including bluebottles (left). Source: Alison McNeice.

The anemone — a close relative of coral and jellyfish — is another favourite of the ocean enthusiast. "These guys were huge, about the size of two fists," she said of the creature that has venom-filled tentacles like jellyfish.

But her "absolute favourite fish to hang out with" is the pufferfish," she said. With enough poison to kill 30 people, the pufferfish, dead or alive, can be fatal to both humans and pets.

Ranked as one of the most poisonous species in the world, the creature contains a toxin called tetrodotoxin on its skin and in its internal organs, which is also found in blue-ringed octopus. It's about 1200 times more poisonous than cyanide, according to the Animal Emergency Service.

A deadly Pufferfish (left), and a sea anemone (right).
The deadly Pufferfish (left) is among her favourites to 'hang out with'. Alison also loves coming across anemone (right). Source: Alison McNeice
A decorator crab on Alison's hand. Source: Supplied
A decorator crab uses seaweed to try and hide themselves. Source: Alison McNeice

"As a kid, I was terrified of many things, including stonefish, pufferfish and a multitude of other animals. Understanding them is crucial to understanding your fears," she said. "The pufferfish are the sweetest, shyest fish I've ever swum with. Absolutely nothing to be afraid of."

"I still wouldn't like to step on a stonefish, and I don't want to handle a blue-ringed octopus but I would dearly love to see them and photograph them," she added. "Once you get up close and personal with many of them, you see they are just trying to survive too. Most animals don't actively wish you harm and just want to survive".

A hermit crab. Source: Supplied
Alison loves photographing marine creatures underwater, like this hermit crab. Source: Alison McNeice

Ordinary Aussies should always be 'cautious'

Although McNeice is fearless when it comes to lethal marine life, she said ordinary Aussies have every right to be concerned and "would advise caution".

"It's instinct, you hear about it being venomous and you're instinctively wary about being around them or handling them," she explained. "I would advise caution. There are still thousands of unidentified species, and while I believe most are harmless to people, if you're not familiar with the species then be sensible".

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