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April 20, 2006

The threat of sudden death

One of the things that you kind of take for granted in the UK is that there aren't that many natural things on the island that can kill you, and very few that can inflict a severe injury. The same can't be said for Greece.

According to our Rough Guide to Greece, in the water we could be attacked by a Moray Eel, with the power to "inflict nasty bites or even sever fingers". Or we could encounter the Weever fish, which buries itself in the sand with just poisonous darts exposed to catch the unwary - "If you tread on one, the sudden pain is excruciating, and the exceptionally potent venom can cause permanent paralysis of the affected area". Poisonous adders and scorpions live in this area of the world, and even the tortoises apparently carry salmonella and shouldn't be touched.

(Yeah, like, what with them and turtles being my favourite animals, I'm not going to stroke a wild tortoise if I manage to bump into one.)

EarthquakeOf course the biggest risk to life and limb in Greece that you don't get in the UK is earthquakes*. Greece is the most seismologically active region of Europe, and around the Ionian island of Zakynthos there have already been several quakes since we arrived on Crete. Crete itself had a quake in January this year, which damaged the Samarian Gorge to the extent that at one point it was thought it wouldn't be open to tourists this summer.

So we've been learning our earthquake drill. This week the emergency services in Hania did an exercise in how they would cope with an underwater quake causing a tsunami in the region, and we know that in the event of Crete being on earthquake alert we should avoid cliffs, and sleep outside in a place where nothing is likely to hit us.

Which is all quite a contrast from London, where I considered the only environmental phenomena likely to kill me were passive smoking, drug-driving TWOC wide boys, and trigger-happy anti-terrorist police.

*Having said that, I do dimly recall that the area near Birmingham did suffer an earth tremor - in fact Birmingham seems to attract all kinds of freak phenomena in the UK - a mini-earthquake, a tornado, and hideous goalkeeping errors in derby matches.

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