The winner of a competition for what was billed the "best job in the world" has been stung by a potentially deadly jellyfish days before completing his assignment as caretaker of a tropical island in Queensland, Australia.
Ben Southall, a British charity worker, beat 34,000 competitors to land the coveted job on Hamilton Island, in the Whitsundays. He has spent the past six months exploring the Great Barrier Reef and blogging about his exploits, to promote Queensland as a tourist destination.
Last Sunday, though, while alighting from a jet-ski, he felt "a small, bee-like sting on my forearm", he wrote in his blog. Feverish and sick, he was diagnosed as having been stung by an irukandji, a jellyfish no bigger than a fingernail. Mr Southall received medical treatment and by the following day had made a full recovery.
Others have not been so fortunate. Two tourists died in separate incidents in 2002, and earlier this week a man was airlifted to hospital after being stung by an irukandji while swimming in north Queensland. He is in a stable condition.
"I thought I'd done particularly well at avoiding any contact with any of the dangerous critters that consider this part of the world their home," Mr Southall, 34, wrote in his blog. "I've avoided being boxed by a kangaroo, nibbled by a shark and bitten by a spider or a snake – but then in my final few days on Hamilton Island I fell foul of a minuscule little creature."
Mr Southall said his "minor brush with what can be a very serious jellyfish" had reminded him of the wisdom of wearing a protective "stinger suit" in tropical waters during the summer months.
The irukandji is so tiny that it can slip through nets that protect popular swimming spots in Queensland from larger jellyfish. While Mr Southall's caretaking job finishes today, the Queensland tourism authority has already engaged him to continue promoting the state globally. In January he will visit Los Angeles.