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At that time my divemaster activities were taking place on a part-time basis. My
main income came from public relations and journalism. Amongst other things, I
organised scientific meetings. One was a coral reef symposium.
That was back in the 1980s and a thorough scientific study of the Great Barrier Reef
had only just begun. One of the speakers commented that fishermen and others
probably had valuable information and marine scientists could learn from them.
I was bold enough to speak up and describe the batfish incident. There was
immediate interest. I had evidently stumbled on something which had not previously
been observed. My guess that the fish were congregating for mating was regarded as
highly plausible.
If there is a moral to all of this, I guess it is twofold. 1 Don't panic. 2 If you see
something unusual underwater, don't assume it is well known to science. You may
have been the first to observe it.
22 Missing persons
The hostel notice board had a special place for photographs of missing persons.
Anxious relatives would call in and put them up. The missing persons were
mainly Australian and aged from twelve upwards. The older often had a history
of mental illness. The younger had often run away with a friend.
One day, Joan (not her real name) came to see me saying there was a young man
in the hostel with photographs of children. Joan was staying with us following a bad
experience with drugs in a hippy commune and had an eagle eye for suspicious
"He says he's helping find kids that have run away from home."
"Do you believe him?" I asked.
"I don't trust him." Joan shook her head.
I peered through the veranda blinds and saw what she was talking about. A skinny
young guy with floppy blond hair was talking to some of my guests. He looked no
more than seventeen. As I watched, he picked up a plastic folder, slipped it neatly
under his arm and walked from the hostel. I could have mistaken him for a Seventh
Day Adventist looking for converts.
Joan thought the police should be informed. I agreed there was something
suspicious about the young man but didn't want to bother them . She persisted and I
phoned a contact in the CIB (Criminal Investigation Bureau). He shared Joan's
concern and gave me a number to phone. That evening, the young fellow put in
another appearance. I phoned the number and a middle-aged lady dropped round
with a bundle of religious tracts and a small camera.
A week passed and the young man booked into the hostel. I phoned my CIB
contact and was informed that the guy was dinkum (Aussie for genuine/okay/alright) .
His investigations were genuine and he really was finding runaways. I asked if he was