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The orgies occur but once a year, towards midsummer, and are over within
a few days. If you are not around to see them, you miss out. In the
Northern Hemisphere, coral spawning occurs during the university term.
Thatâ€Ÿs why it had not been discovered there. The American marine
scientists were in class teaching their students when it occurred. They got
the message and took their students out to sea, the following year, and
discovered the phenomenon in the Caribbean.
17 Ladies of the Night
Every army has them and they are usually called camp followers. The
ladies of the night perform a vital function that is often overlooked in
history books, which tells you a lot about the people who write the
books because there's no shortage of information.
It's not hard to find, as I discovered when I agreed to help with an oral
history project to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Oral history is what you learn by talking to old people about what they did
when they were young. It is important because it records things that don't
get written down when they happen ... sometimes for good reasons. The
oral historians who recruited me to their team were professionals with
academic reputations to defend. I had nothing to defend and didn't share
their inhibitions about delving in murky corners.
The Battle of the Coral Sea was fought in 1942 from bases in northern
Australia. Tens of thousands of virile, young American troops flooded into a
region from which most women and children had been evacuated. Not
surprisingly, they found themselves desperately short of female company.
The academics lacked my sort of contacts. While they were interviewing
former mayors and church leaders I got talking to the father of one of my
diving mates. He was a police officer in 1942, aged twenty-four and based
in Townsville, which was the main garrison city at the time.