19 August 2008

Cyrene Reef: last sunrise trip

6am and we're all ready to go to Cyrene!This is the last morning trip to Cyrene for the year. How nice to have lots of new friends to share this fabulous reef with.

On the way there, Jani and Abigayle of the Blue Water Volunteers have a look at the chart of 100 Knobbly sea stars that Sijie and Chee Kong of the Star Trackers have so far included in their study. They're looking the star that Blue Water Volunteers adopted during Reef Celebrations!We make another safe landing thanks to Melvin. Poor Melvin fractured his toe but he still heroically brought us out to the reef.

As soon as we land, we see lots of sandy shore animals like sand dollars and sea stars! Cyrene is truly alive.

Although it is past sunrise, the day is ominously dark.As November and Marcus share about the 'Nemo' in her anemone, rain is starting to fall on the mainland. The False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) that lives in this Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) was too shy to show itself. But we did see an anemone shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) at the anemone! We didn't see one in the last visits we made. How interesting!All around us, big black clouds are gathering. These ones over the industrial installations of Jurong Island.
Fortunately, there seems to be a 'hole' in the bad weather, right on top of Cyrene Reef! So we can continue with our little walk. Here's Jerald sharing about the Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) of Cyrene. Jerald and Vyna are doubling up both as guides as well as helping the Star Trackers to mark the locations of Knobblies with the big yellow flags.Andy and Sijie have found an interesting slug! This is Philinopsis sp., belonging to the Family Aglajidae also known as tailed slugs. It has a long, cylindrical body with a pair of 'wings' (called parapodia) which fold over the centre of the body as well as a pair of 'tails, one longer than the other. It has a tiny internal shell. Some species of tailed slugs eat bubble shell snails, hunting them by following their slime trail then swallowing them whole!
There's lots of interesting stuff to look at even in places that appear to be only bare sand! Here's a look at the creature that creates those intriguing coils of sand, the Acorn worm (Class Enteropneusta). Paul also spotted a swimming anemone (Boloceroides mcmurrichi) which was stranded on the sand. But it didn't swim when we gently put it back into the water.
A little further on and Vyna spots this interesting flatworm. This is not regularly seen and I'm not sure what it is.We stop many times to take a closer look at the animals, but have to push on as the tide is short today. And the weather continues to look ominous. We also see a living scallop (Family Pectinidae) along the way! But we didn't have time to watch it for long. At Labrador, when we had time, we saw it 'swim' with a clap of its valves!We rush off to catch a glimpse of the coral reefs before the tide (and weather) turned.Cyrene Reef is ringed by reefs at the edges and they are full of a bewildering variety of soft and hard corals and many different crabs, fishes, nudibranchs and other small animals that live there. Here's the team happily exploring the reef.

Abigayle and Jani have been exploring too and they saw a fish that looks like a sand diver! Belonging to the Family Trichonotidae, these long narrow fishes are said to hover in small groups above the sand. When threatened, they dive into the sand. Hence their common name.
Meanwhile, Sijie and Chee Kong and Andy are hard at work monitoring those amazing Knobblies (marked with the yellow flags). Today, they recorded 118 stars in about an hour!Behind them is a huge dredger that is doing works between Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom.
Here's the dredging working area (marked in red) from an earlier MPA notice.Besides this dredging project, Cyrene Reef may also be affected by the massive reclamation planned on the mainland (in red box) at the Pasir Panjang Port.
Vyna shares about the reefs as the group slowly heads back to the departure point. And another storm front is developing over the Southern Islands in the background. This one looks serious, and is unlikely to miss Cyrene.Marcus takes a few last photos as the weather looms again over Jurong Island.Just before we go home, Ling Ling spots this interesting peacock anemone (Order Ceriantharia). This animal has a columnar body topped with rings of tentacles, and outer ring of long tentacles, and inner ring of short ones. It builds a tube to live in, so it's sometimes called a tube anemone.As I was waiting for the others to come up to the departure point, I saw this little anemone. It looks somewhat like a small version of the Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea). But it was really small (about 5cm in diameter) and had white radiating lines. Hmmm?

As usual, the weather held until it was time to go home. Melvin quickly brought us off the reef and said the incoming storm looked like a bad one. We are now convinced that Melvin has god-like powers in keeping the bad weather away from us during our field trips.

With us today were new friends from the I want to go Cyrene facebook group: Charmaine, Gabriel, Tian Loong and Chun Fong; Ling Ling and Paul from NParks, Abigayle and Jani from Blue Water Volunteers.

The facebook group folks valiantly put up these fabulous blog entries to convince us that they should go to Cyrene. Thank you for your wonderful blog entries!
Charmaine Ho's entry: Cyrene to call our own with an update on her experience of the trip.
Gabriel Tan's web entry I want to go Cyrene Reef with an update on his experience of the trip.
Chong Tian Loong's blog entry I want to go Cyrene Reef
Chun Fong's blog entry Serene Cyrene

Regulars on this trip include Dr Chua Ee Kiam, our very own famous nature author and photographer; Chee Kong and Sijie of the Star Trackers; and from the Naked Hermit Crabs: Andy, Marcus, November, Jerald and Vyna.

We're taking a long break now as the tides will not be suitable for any trips to Cyrene for a while. We will miss this wonderful reef and hope it will keep well despite the many ongoing works around it.

More blog posts about this trip
More about Cyrene Reef on the wildsingapore website.

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