Archive for the ‘Southern Shores’ Category

Lots of Life at “Ghost Island”!

Pulau Hantu, literally translated, means “Ghost Island”. In spite of it’s name however, the island certainly isn’t dead (nor undead, for that matter)!

Seahorses don't move much, but they're very much alive!

Seahorses don’t move much, but they’re very much alive!

More on that later, but first – why the ominous name “Ghost Island”?

The name of the island could be a reference to how the middle of the island appears and disappears depending on the tide, or attributed to the folk legend behind it’s creation. The legend states that the islands were formed from – SURPRISE – two dead warriors, who died fighting each other, with some godly intervention. Seriously, go check out the legend in it’s entirety here. This is spookily similar to the lore behind the formation of Pulau Ubin (formed from an elephant, a boar and a frog who all drowned while trying to race across the straits) and Sister’s islands (formed from a pair of sisters who drowned while escaping from pirates), which all involved animals or people dying. Man, people in the past were pretty morbid (and not very creative it seems). Seriously, it’s like they just looked at islands and thought: “Huh, I wonder why there are these little bits of land sticking out from the sea. THEY MUST’VE BEEN FORMED FROM DEAD BODIES”. (Sometimes, though, they’re right!)

Moving on, the Lee Kong Chian Natural Museum held its first SG50 Intertidal Walk to Pulau Hantu on Saturday, and I got to tag along as a trainee guide (read their blogpost here)!

In order to catch the tide, we met our 39 participants at Marina South Pier (which thankfully now has an MRT) at *gasp* 6AM in the morning! Which means I had to wake up at 4.30AM D:


Cheng Puay (left) and me (right). I am not a morning person.

After an hour’s boat ride, we arrived at P. Hantu Besar!

Good morning from "Big Ghost" Island!

Good morning from “Big Ghost” Island!

Even before we hit the shore, visitors were fascinated by the flowers that littered the ground around the island.

These pink fireworks explosions are flowers of the Sea Poison Tree (Barringtonia asiatica), whose seeds were crushed and used by people in the past to stun and capture fish in freshwater streams. The poison was later broken down during the cooking process, and the fish could be consumed safely.

Ironically, the very first intertidal organism most visitors are introduced to are socially awkward ones – the creeper snails, and the adorably anti-social hermit crabs.

"Hey! Don't invade my personal bubble!" (Photo by Ian Siah)

“Hey! Don’t invade my personal bubble!” (Photo by Ian Siah)

As we moved across the mud towards some patches of seagrass, more organisms, such as this fan worm began to appear.

The Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) were also flowering!

Common sea stars were everywhere

And as we headed past the muddy mangrove towards the coral rubble, well uh, coral started showing up!

Many more creatures live among the coral rubble, such as the cute little heart cockle

And the gigantic relative of the heart cockle, the Fluted Giant Clam

The uncommon Spider Conch (Lambis lambis) was also found. They have a large spike foot thing they can use to flip themselves over, but this one wasn’t really up to performing so we quickly returned him back to face-down position.

Sometimes amidst the uniform brown sediment, we get blinded by sudden flashes of colour

Participants today were SUPER LUCKY. We hit lots of rarely seen critters, such as this pair of seahorses, spotted by one of the younger participants.

Ian managed to get a clearer photograph of the sneaky seahorsies

Our hunter-seeker Jiayi found us a cute (but not really comfy) cushion star

She also found some beautifully striking feather stars

Other strange invertebrates include nudibranchs, commonly known as Sea Slugs. This particular one is the Polka-dot nudibranch (Jorunna funebris).

Covering almost every taxa, we also came across representatives from the vertebrate groups “fish” and “reptiles”

With so many awesome sightings, we were all feeling pretty great.. till we encountered this. A ghost net on ghost island.

Participants and guides worked to help save critters stuck in the net.

Entangled fish included this blue-spotted stingray, who unfortunately didn’t make it 😦

Even a large stonefish was entangled!

Mr. Stonefish after being liberated. My foot size is US 7.5, for scale.

We then cut out as much length of the net as we could manage, and disposed of it. As you can see, abandoned drift nets are very harmful to marine organisms as they trap fishes and crabs. The trapped animals get tangled up and die. Project Driftnet is made up of a group of volunteers have organised themselves to collect data on where abandoned drift nets fish traps are found and dispose of them.

We will keep a lookout for the drift net in our next Hantu trip.

Though abandoned driftnets are bad news, it was heartening to see our participants jumping in to rescue the trapped crabs and fishes.

Till the next SG50 walk! For more information on upcoming walks, do check out the LKCNHM page HERE (http://lkcnhm.net/2015/05/08/sg50-intertidal-walks/)!

For all the photos taken by Ian and I, you can check out our albums on facebook:

You’ve come to the Jong place

Visited the Balik Pulau exhibition at the National Museum some weeks back, and learnt that the country of Singapore consists of 40 islands (used to be 77). Not all are inhabited however – some, like Pulau Jong, are simply too small. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, though.

If you thought there wasn't marine life in SG, you thought Jong.

Yep, this is Singapore.

“Wait, Pulau Jong? Where the heck is that?” (Actual response when I told someone where I was.)

There it is!

There it is! (When you’re a tiny red dot on the map of a country that is a tiny red dot, you know you’re TINY.)

 

Ubin, Semakau, Kusu and St. Johns are some of the more well known islands barring the mainland (P. Ujong) and Sentosa (P. Belakang Mati). But they are, after all, just some of the 40 islands that make up our island nation. To me, Pulau Jong was always that small “charsiew pau” island that we would cruise past on the way to P. Semakau. I had heard many things about the marine life there, and last Wednesday, I finally got a chance to set foot on the shore of Jong.

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If you thought there wasn’t marine life in SG, you thought Jong. Jong has a surprising diversity of corals and other reef life – and one doesn’t have to dive to see it – just come at a low tide!

So what is Jong? Wiki attack!
Pulau Jong or Junk Island is a 6,000 m² conical island about 6 kilometres off the southern coast of Singapore.”
“According to a local legend behind the island’s name, a Chinese junk was attacked by Malay pirates one night where the island now is. Just as the pirates were about to board the junk, the captain (the Nakhodah) awoke. When the captain saw the pirates, he uttered such a frightful yell that the sea spirit turned the whole junk into an island.”

Uh yeah. That’s it.
There’s also a special rock type found here, but I don’t know enough about that to really say anything about it.

Anyway, since Jong is uninhabited, that means NO JETTY. So how do we land? Like friggin commandos that’s how.

Our boat tows a rubber dinghy, used for amphibious landing. (Sg skyline in the background)

Naw not parachutes. Our boat tows a rubber dinghy, used for amphibious landing. (Sg skyline in the background)

Currents around the island are significant - we get as close as we can, jump off and try not to stumble and fall.

Currents around the island are significant – we get as close as we can, jump off and try not to stumble and fall.

 

Also, see that awesome sunrise? Most of the lowest tides occur at ungodly hours – for this trip we left the marina at 7am, and that’s considered late. (Some of the trips are at 3am!)

The sunrise assures us that we made the right choice not sleeping in.

The sunrise assures us that we made the right choice not sleeping in.

 

Okay enough about the island – what wildlife is there?
Uh I spent an hour stalking marine spiders (Desis martensi), a species of spider that lives and hunts in the intertidal zone and can walk on surface of the sea.

I spent an hour observing them, but they're so skittish and fast that this is the most decent shot i got :(

I spent an hour observing them, but they’re so skittish and fast that this is the most decent shot I got of an adult 😦

Lots of cute little babehs though!

Lots of cute little babehs though!

Corals come in all shapes and sizes, like this cool blue Xenia sp.

Corals come in all shapes and sizes, like this cool blue Sansibia sp.

Fishies!

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Some kind of goby? I’m terrible with fishies (leave a comment if you know!)

 

Crusties!

Anemone shrimps can be super hard to spot, only their movement gives them away.

Anemone shrimps can be super hard to spot, only their movement gives them away.

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When looking through my photos the thumbnails make it look like I’ve accidentally been shooting random rocks

Oh look more of those spiders

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Whee

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Yay

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Hairy crab (Pilumnus sp.)! AKA the teddy bear crab. When submerged, the hairs get suspended and break the shape of the crab, assisting camouflage.

Apart from the stuff above, we also saw a ton of cool beasts including a small black-tipped reef shark, two giant reef worms, a spotted fantail ray and a free swimming octopus. Unfortunately no photos of any of those, cos I was focusing on reef spiders and saw those by chance heh.

So I didn’t manage to get photos of as much wildlife as I would’ve liked (time spent stalking spiders), but thankfully I wasn’t the only one on the trip! Check out some of these other blogposts and pages about Jong (also, just go google!)

Many thanks to Ria Tan who brought me along on this trip!
Her blogpost can be viewed here http://wildshores.blogspot.sg/2014/07/checking-up-on-pulau-jong.html#.U8x15o2Sw4Q

The awesome guys from Travelledpaths bravely brought along their trusty drone, capturing some stunning images of the place
http://www.travelledpaths.com/exploring-the-wildshores-of-singapore-pulau-jong/

Jerome also has beautiful photos of Jong
http://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/boarding-the-junk-at-sunrise/

More information about Jong and factsheets about marine life in Singapore can be found at Wildsingapore! Do explore 😀
http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/places/jong.htm

Line of Death at Pulau Semakau (17/7/10)

Today, i have many photos of fishies, but unfortunately all in the same backdrop and predicament – struggling for their lives in a long driftnet that cut across all 3 of the site 2 transects.

When we approached the site, we noticed unnaturally frequent splashes of water (like when fish slap the water’s surface) and later as we were laying out the transect lines, we realised that the splashing sounds were from fish struggling in the drift net. After finishing up our monitoring, we got down to work to try and release as many fish as possible.

At first glance the evil tangling lines of the drift net are not immediately obvious, its no suprise that many marine creatures would accidentally stumble into one.

A trapped rabbitfish that along our transect

Jason cutting free the rabbitfish. This was one of the lucky ones.

When fishes struggle to get free, they tend to get even more caught up in the lines. This fish had gotten the lines wrapped tightly many times around the gills and even after we cut it loose it didnt move very much.

Fish that get entangled nearer to shore during high tides die from lack of oxygen when the tide goes out and they are left stranded aground.

Apart from fish, many crabs were also entangled in the net.

This individual seemed convinced that we were the trappers and was very defensive. Fortunately he was cut loose (with great caution).

Some were so badly entangled that we were unable to cut them loose for lack of time (the tides were coming in)

Mr Lim Cheng Puay freeing a Leatherjacket

A leatherjacket that made it..

.. and another fish that didn’t.

This parrotfish had its sharp teeth caught in the net, and as soon as it got loose it tried to snap at us. Fishes that get stuck in drift nets attract predators as they are unable to escape, and the predators themselves in turn get stuck in the net as well. The fishes that get eaten are the luckier ones, those that survive but are still stuck die slow deaths. Drifnets also uproot seagrasses, sponges and sometimes corals, damaging both the ecosystem and its inhabitants.

Jason cutting free a long fish..

..And a crab. He managed to save about more than ten lives with his trusty nail clipper.

Mr Lim and the team working to haul out the net. Because we had cut the net in half, it was likely that the fishermen who had cast the net would abandon it, so we had to ensure that as much of the net was removed as possible, or it could risk becoming a ghost net and continue being a permanent killer on the shore or out at sea. This meant that since the tide was coming in, we had to haul the net out as fast as possible, so we had to halt the rescues and remove the net, even if there were still living creatures stuck in it. Necessary sacrifices to prevent the net from killing further.

The nets we hauled out on the transect squares (how useful) and some of the unfortunate creatures that had to be sacrificed. The NEA staff were kind enought to assure us that they would take care (carefully dispose) of the net.

Other victims included a blue-spotted ray, a solefish, a spotted scat, tripodfish and many other crabs and fishes that i was unable to photograph (cutting them out and removing the net was of higher priority). It is unfortunate that the first time i get to see so many different kinds of fish (since they’re usually darting about really fast in the water) has to be because of a drift net.

I really don’t see why driftnetting is still legal. Ms Ria mentioned throwing up a research project to students on surveying the life caught in driftnets, which is a pretty good idea as we get to record fishes that are usually too hard to record cos they swim so fast, as well as collect comprehensive data on the species affected by drifnetting, and this may be able to contribute towards an appeal for the ban on drifnetting.

Horrors like these aren’t only seen in documentaries.

Sentosa again!

Well last saturday was about the 14th time i’ve been back to Sentosa’s Tanjong Rimau within the past 2 years, this time to conduct a recce together with Walks of Life, a guiding project in our school.

When we first approached Rasa Sentosa, there were signs saying no entry and stuff, but we figured since TR was a public area the signs only applied to the resort, so we just bashed.

Despite the low tides today (0.2), we didn’t see as much as the last time we came, but there were still new encounters!

Brown or Floral Egg Crab (Atergatis floridus), we’ve seen em on almost every trip we’ve made down to TR! Glad to see they’re still active enough to come out to greet us :D. like all xanthid crabs though, they are toxic, and cannot be eaten (not even after cooking/boiling).  they are also listed as Vulnerable in the Singapore Red Data Book.

A stunning Pimply Pyllid Nudibranch (what an unglam name), (Phyllidiella pustulosa). The bumps may be pink, red, grey, green or blue, in this case Bluish Green! or turquoise.  this guy we haven’t seen here before 🙂

A not so clear photo of a Worm-Eel! these guys have been seen quite often as well, and they swim realy fast! had to chase after it and burst mode.

Headland of Tanjong Rimau, it was around here where i turned over i huge rock that was riddled with holes only to unearth (by accident!) what seemed like a nest of Marine Spiders (Desis martensi)! the rock was crawling with spiders about o.5 cm in size and grey, and in one of the crevices we spied the humongous brood mother which was  about the size of my thumb, the largest ive seen so far! it was also the mature brownish yellow colour. though i didn’t manage to get any pics (the babies scuttled away really fast and the brood mom retreated back into reclusion), here are some representative photos from the last trip.

Under that same rock there was something else that was of an unnatrually large size..

It may look like a long worm, but these are actualy the feet of a brittle star! (body not in picture). its feet were longer than the length from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger o.o

after a while we realised it was kindof late alr, so we decided to ascend a nearby hill to try to cross back to the otehr side of TR where our bags were.

Sam and Joce ascending the steep slippery hill

When we reached the top…

We found ourselves in Fort Siloso. we just didnt know it.. yet.

one of the staff members walked by and eyed us suspiciously.

then as we walked further in, 3 staff members approached as asked if we needed help, to which we responded that we were trying to find the shortest route back to the other side of the shore.

“This is Fort Siloso.. and we’re not open yet O.o”

so we had entered Fort Siloso before opening hours.. without paying the entrace fees nonetheless.

we made our way out and realised the gantry gate thing wasnt even open yet.

It was about 9.45 when this photo was taken.

we made our way back to TR from the Rasa Sentosa side again, but this time we were stopped by cleaners who kept insisting the entry was not permitted.

“but our bags are down there!”

“no, not allowed to come in here.”

sam and wilnard ran ahead but joce and i had to climb down the rocks at the side to get back to the shore.

so we got our bags, and were walking out via RS again when these two important looking chinese and caucasian dudes stopped us and kindof scolded us.

apparently there would be construction work at RS, and all access, even to TR, would not be permitted D:

This is bad cos WOL has a walk planned at TR for the 17th!

i really hope that the construction won’t impact the shore in any way, and that access won’t be blocked off for too long.

in the meantime, i’ll miss the place ):

Sea Bunnies!

Sea Hares (Order Anaspidea) are large sea slugs found in both our Northern and Southern shores, and are apparently seasonal. though they are also mollucs, Sea Hares are NOT nudibranchs!

This couple was found at Cyrene Reef (i forgot to post in the cyrene post)

This should be an Extraordinary Sea Hare (Aplysia extraordinaria), correct me if i’m wrong! if you look carefully you can see there are actually two of them, a smaller one atop a larger one. Sadly, Sea Hares often die soon after copulation/laying eggs.

Seagrass beds, as mentioned in the previous post, provide breeding and nursery grounds for many forms of marine life, and are vital to sustaining life in the sea and indirectly our supply of seafood, so look after our waters, and keep them clean!

Star Studded Cyrene!

Yesterday was my first time at Cyrene Reef, and it was amazing 🙂

Went with Teamseagrass for a monitoring session (work before play!), thanks for inviting me Ms Ria!

Sunrise at Cyrene

One of the many Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus) all over the place at Cyrene


Cyrene reef is a submerged reef (meaning it is submerged at high tides, but at low tides, BAM! a 1km or so stretch of land suddenly appears in the middle of nowhere), a 30 minute boat ride south of Singapore, and is surrounded by the heavy industries on Jurong Island and the monstrous refineries of Pulau Bukom.

Joo Yong and Marcus in the foreground, industrial monsters in the background.

Despite all that, life at Cyrene is still incredibly diverse, our transect having 5-6 species of seagrass (usually we only get two) and making us spend more time trying to discern them (took us an hour!).

The boat departed for Cyrene at 6 (had to wake up at 4.30 a.m.) and when we had reached, we still had to pile into a tiny little dinghy to make our landing. then we trudged our way to our sites.

Marcus, being himself.

Monitoring started at 7 and ended at 8

Ms Siti working on the transect next to ours, with more industrial monsters in the background.

The Spoon Seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) here are the largest i’ve seen so far, some with leaves almost as large as my thumb!

After we were done monitoring, we still had some time to explore, so here’s some of the stuff we found.

There were a number of Common Sea Stars (Archaster typicus) lounging around. A video of the tubular feet they use to ‘walk’ can be found at http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=378923208550

Joce and I were walking along when we came across a carpet anemone, and while we were taking photos of it when an anemone shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) popped out from below the anemone and decided to camwhore for us, so we gladly complied 😀

even got a video!

There was also a little Elbow Crab

you see it, right?

While we were taking photos of this guy, i suddenly noticed something lurking almost right next to it that we somehow missed!

Turns out it was a really special find, a Pentaceraster mammillatus, which was only recently (actually two years ago) discovered on our shores! The discovery was special as before its discovery, this star, locally fondly referred to as the darth vader star and the dark knobbly (i call this one baby blue :D), was only known to be found in the western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, so its discovery indicates a significant increase in distribution range.

The star is named mammillatus after the rows of nipple like nodules on its body

Tubular feet!

The underside, not sure what that snail is doing there though o.o

Trying to right itself, oops. we should always try not to handle sea stars, and even if we do we should try to rest their bodies on the palm of the hand. this is because sea stars sometimes lose a limb on purpose in an effort to escape when they feel they are threatened, so we should never dangle them by their feet!

anyway this one happens to be quite teeny (about the length of Joce’s index finger) so it’s likely to be a juvenile!

It’s kinda exciting, cos apparently this is the first baby darth vader found at our shores!

Seagrass beds serve a vital function (among many vital functions) in the ecosystem by being a nursery for many forms of marine life. (they are also food for characteristic megafauna such as dugongs and sea turtles!)

There were lots of sea cukes too!

A Garlic Bread Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra)! tasty o.o

A Synaptid Sea Cucumber, not sure what sp. exactly though.

Black Long Sea Cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota) is found on most of our shores, but are more common in the southern shores.

And last but not least, who could forget the very stars Cyrene is famous for, the Knobblies!

Knobblies come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes, some are fatter and some have more colour! at cyrene they occur so frequently that these stars were all within meters (some less than a meter) apart from each other! truly amazing.

This guy was a little strange and unsymmetrical, a survivor of an attack perhaps?

after exploring, it was time to head back.. ):

we dinghy-ed back to the boat where we headed back to mainland with a steady supply of snacks and cookies.

Marcus’s cheapo slippers. Oh well, as long as it functions, brands don’t matter! (much)

But back at the marina, the trip hadn’t truly ended yet!

around the docks and pontoons were all sorts of life!

Jellyfish!

Lining the sides of the pontoons were these vertical reefs, growing everywhere along the sides! this photo was taken with my camera pointing vertically downward into the water. there were many colourful fish and even a filefish, and some of them were even swimming on their sides so it looked as if we were really underwater!

according to Ms Shufen, researchers are actually collaborating with the owners of marinas in order to create better environments for biodiversity so  they can actually use the marinas as a kind of rest stop before heading back out to sea, how interesting :O. apparently there was once even a sighting of a turtle here.

after all that, some of us took a ride in Ms Shufen’s cab to Harbourfront, and we were greeted by this

im not sure how many people actually think like me, but i actually like stepping out of my comfort zone. i like getting bitten by mosquitoes. i like sweating buckets. i like the smell of the soil and leaves. more people should be willing to do so.. leave the air-conditioned concrete boxes once in a while and go see the world!.. you don’t have to go too far (:

and now i have two badges (:

the badge on the right is to celebrate the 3rd year of Teamseagrass 😀

yep, i can’t wait to go back to cyrene again, but with A levels looming i doubt i’d have many more opportunities to go out (when i go out its almost always to nature areas so..) which means this blog will probably go on hiatus by june or so, but we’ll see bout that.

sentosa post is overdue, will post.. whenever i next have time XP