In November, 1996, the Research Vessel Moira returned to Sydney from her most recent expeditions in the South Pacific.
As it happens, we arrived just in time to meet with my friend Walter Stark who lives in Northern Queensland. He was flying through Sydney from Queensland on his way to the States where he will be doing a documentary on the San Blas Indians of Panama.
Freddy and I had not seen Walter (just voice tapes, phone calls, Email) since 1980. Walter wanted to visit us as he and his wife passed through. His wife also had two friends she wanted to visit and they were not going to be in Sydney very long. We were all surprised to learn that her friends live in the tiny, remote community of Cottage Point, not 100 meters from where we moor the Moira when we are in Sydney. This kind of co-incidence, where impossible odds vector together, is what Jung called synchronicity.
On my morning walk, the day Walter was arriving, I got to thinking about our other mutual friends. The beautiful Debby Brown, in particular. She had been part of our small team of researchers in the Solomon Islands in 1976 and I guess she came to mind because the last time we saw her was the same time we last saw Walter. I wondered where she might be now, after all these years. Unlike our continuing correspondence with Walter we had no contact with her over the past 16 years.
As Freddy and I returned from our walk, our neighbour, John, said he was going to drive into Mona Vale to get a few things. Would we like to go along? Cottage Point is a very isolated little community and we have no car. Shopping opportunities are always welcome. Walter was not arriving until late afternoon so we had time to go get a few things. In Mona Vale, we did most of our shopping, had lunch, then went to Woolworths to load up on food. It was Saturday and very crowded. About half way through the store a lovely lady wheeled her shopping cart up to us and said, "Rick, Freddy? Is that you?" It was Debby Brown.
We never would have found her by ordinary means. She had divorced her husband, moved, and married again. She had lost touch with Walter. As if stumbling upon us in Woolies wasn't coincidence enough, we told her Walter was arriving in Sydney later that same day.
The odds of all these things happening together in one day are simply not realistic by chance alone. Of course, there was nothing especially "important" in these amazing synchronicities, but that evening, after I told him about our fortuitous meeting with Debby, Walter told me a story about another couple who had an even more amazing brush with synchronicity on a coral reef in Indonesia; one with really important consequences.
This guy and his wife were SCUBA diving on a lovely coral reef in Indonesia when a cuttlefish glided up to them. He had his camera and swam slowly toward the squid-like cephalopod to get a photo of it, but as they approached, it backed away. So, they went back to looking around the reef. No sooner did they turn away, the cuttlefish approached them again. Closer. They looked at it. It backed away. This went on several times until the woman had a bizarre notion. "Maybe it's trying to get us to follow it," she thought. So she followed the cuttlefish, and her husband tagged along.
The cuttlefish lead them over the reef, across a sand patch, onto an adjoining reef where they came upon a fish trap. In Indonesia, when fishermen catch a cuttlefish in their fish traps, they poke a wire through it and leave it in the cage to act as live fish bait. Their friendly cuttlefish hovered over the fish trap as the two divers swam closer. And there, in the fish trap, they saw another cuttlefish with a wire through it.
The man reached in, undid the wire, and eased it out of the cuttlefish. Immediately, it swam up and joined the first one. The two cuttlefish swam side by side around the divers, circling them twice, and then, no doubt feeling enormously lucky, both couples swam off, heading for a happy new year, full of wonderful coincidences.
For a whole lot more about synchronicities, hyperlink over to Log Book 1 of the Voyage of the Moira.