within a couple of days of one another ... and that goes for all species. It truly is one
huge sex orgy.
The orgies occur but once a year, towards midsummer, and are over within a few
days. If you are not around to see what's going on, you miss out. In the Northern
Hemisphere, coral spawning occurs during university term. The American marine
scientists were in class teaching so they missed out.
By doing it at the same time, the corals produce such a vast quantity of spawn that
predatory fish can't possibly devour the lot. Enough of their offspring survive to settle
down and form new colonies.
22 Fish traps
When I ran our backpacker hostel in Townsville, I had an Aboriginal friend called
Jack. He was a city dweller but maintained his Aboriginal roots.
Jack knew a lot about wildlife and had relatives living in remote parts of the Northern
Territory. He often visited them and had a wealth of stories about traditional Aboriginal
Jack drove a big 4WD vehicle and took hostel guests on field trips into the
surrounding bushland. One day I went with him to see some ancient Aboriginal fish
traps in Cleveland Bay, south of the city.
The area is a rich habitat of mangrove swamp and mudflat, washed over by the tide.
Fish venture into the shallows to feed at high tide and run the risk of being stranded
when the tide goes out. As Jack said, it is an ideal area for fishing.
He was scathing of white Australians who claim his ancestors had no concept of
ownership. Did they really think that a spot like this wouldn't be highly prized and
fought over? It would be staked out. Markers would be put in place to identify which
clan had rights to a given stretch of shore.
He pointed to a large rock on which a shield had been painted then took us to
another. There were half a dozen or more, painted in natural pigments and still visible
despite the passage of time. They were spaced out along the shoreline and bore a
striking resemblance to European coats of arms.
Jack said he could recognise religious paintings and these were quite different .
They were clan totems and they marked boundaries. They were there to say where
one clan's rights ended and another's began.
We went down onto the mud flats to see what we could find. Jack said he used to
go there when he was a boy. He and his mates would camp out and live off what they
caught and what their mums had provided.
The old traps consisted of pools and channels lined with stones. Fish got lost in the
channels and ended up stranded in the pools. You could take the fish or leave them to
swim to freedom at the next high tide. If need be, you could block off channels with
stones to stop fish escaping.
The Aboriginal people never took to farming. Having tried to grow things in
Australia's harsh climate. I'm not surprised. Why farm when so much is freely