11 July 2009

St. John's Island - still alive!

The narrow reefs of St. John's Island lies at the base of a natural cliff and overlooks the Sisters Islands and Pulau Terkukor.
Although small, it has some interesting marine life! Of course, today it's time to check it out for sea anemones. But also, I was concerned about the possible impact of the shore protection works that had been going on here.

The frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.) are common on our reefs. And today, I saw a wide variety of them. Besides lots with a rather plain pattern, I also saw one which is pale and 'sandy' (photo on the left) and some with banded tentacles.
There was also one with darker tentacles with purple tips, and white stripes on its oral disk.
Then there was this really strange frilly anemone with an orange mouth. It was next to plain one. Like other sea anemones, they look like blobs out of water. The frilly anemones have long body columns with white bumps and are usually buried among stones and rubble. I removed one of the stones to reveal the body column, and put it back after that.
There were two Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) and one small Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni).
Liana saw a pretty stripey wriggly star anemone. There were also a few blobs on stones in the lagoon. But I didn't see any others hidden in the sand, probably because we went there after the rain and sea anemones don't like fresh water so the ones in the sand might have just dug in deeper.

The shore has some corals, but these were not as plentiful as I remembered from my previous trips. There were the usual colourful favid corals (Family Faviidae).
Many large boulder-shaped pore corals (Porites sp.) and this green one which was encrusting.
And near the wave splashed areas among large boulders, some encrusting brain corals (Family Mussidae). These sure looked like brains in texture and colour!
Often mistaken for a hard coral is the blue coral (Heliopora coerulea). Although the colony has a hard skeleton, the polyps have branched tentacles like soft corals.
There were also lots of leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) of all kinds and sizes. And many little clumps of these blue feathery soft corals.
While the others saw lots of nudibranchs, I had more luck with the worms. This beautiful black worm elegantly edged with white and orange (Pseudobiceros uniarborensis) was crawling in the clear but ripply water.
And on the rocks, out of water, there was this fleshy beige flatworm that looks like mobile snot. It moves very very fast and is quite creepy to watch.
I also saw one very very long striped ribbon worm (Baseodiscus delineatus) that didn't seem to have a beginning or an end. Ribbon worms are predators that can inject a venom so we shouldn't mess with them.
Very common on this shore are the long black sea cucumbers (Holothuria leucospilota), often snuggled up under stones and near corals.
I actually spent a short time on the reef and snuck around to take a closer look at the special plants growing on the cliffs and rocky shores and to check out the shore protection works done on this shore.
As the tide was turning, the weather turned ominous. Here's the reef flats of St. John's Island with the Sisters Islands on the horizon.
Dark clouds boiled overhead as we packed up to get off the shore. Lightning is more of a concern than just getting wet.
And rain started falling over the city.
We hung out at the shelter for a while until the rain and lighting eased up. Then headed back out to explore the swimming lagoons.
The team have found more of these perplexing snails that we call 'special Gong-gong'. These conch snails (Family Strombidae) are being sorted out by Chee Kong and Kok Sheng and we await their findings eagerly!
There were also a few common sea stars (Archaster typicus) in the lagoon.
And I saw this odd clump of seaweed that I've seldom seen. I have no idea what it might be.
The team had lots of sightings, but alas, a mishap as well. Ivan's ipod comes to the rescue as we try to figure out whether the Canon service center is open today. Wow, we are quite impressed by the ipod!
We're back for our last trip of the series tomorrow. It's been a long long week, and I'm looking forward to finally getting some sleep after the low tides end!

More posts about this trip

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