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Mike's Australia


Farming is never easy but it's not as difficult as it once was. The tyranny of distance
has been eased by better roads and advances in telecommunications . A lot of the
smaller farms have gone and more economically viable holdings have emerged to take
their place. There are fewer farmers and those that remain are more prosperous than
those of a generation ago. Weatherboard homesteads with corrugated iron roofs are
being replaced by prosperous dwellings that would not look out of place in a modern
city. There are those who feel nostalgic about the vanishing past. Dave is not one of
them.
21 Sex orgies
GRADUATE STUDENTS at James Cook University of North Queensland are
engaged in pioneering studies of sex orgies ...
I wrote that in a press release thirty years ago and the story took wings. The
university achieved instant fame and I received newspaper clippings from all round the
world, testifying to its success.
When I say fame I mean fame not notoriety.
The students and their professors had good reason to be proud. For the first time
ever, the amazing phenomenon of mass coral spawning had been identified and
subject to scientific investigation.
Corals are sedentary creatures, confined to coralline structures, so getting together
for sexual reproduction is out of the question. Instead of copulating, the small animals
produce vast amounts of eggs and sperm and cast them to the currents . There's so
much of the stuff that chance fertilisation is bound to occur. The slicks of coral spawn
are so big they can be seen from space.
The slicks had been observed by fishermen but had not been subjected to scientific
investigation. That was thirty years ago and the first marine science research centres
had only recently been established in northern Australia. Very little tropical marine
science had been done.
There was still an immense amount of basic information to be gathered. The
general (and mistaken) view was that the slicks were algal blooms.
The students investigated the slicks and discovered the amazing phenomenon of
mass coral spawning. What's more, it was the first time the phenomenon had been
identified anywhere on Earth ... which tells you a lot about the state of tropical marine
science in those days.
Why hadn't coral spawning been observed in the Caribbean? That was puzzling to
say the least. The corals must spawn there. America has lots of marine scientists.
Why hadn't they seen it?
The mystery was solved when the corals spawned the following year. It then
became apparent that they synchronise their sexual activity using the phases of the
moon as a clock. The tiny animals are so diligent in their timekeeping that they hit off
 
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