19 November 2009

Soggy seagrass fun at Cyrene

The weather was miserable as we headed out for our favourite submerged reef. Sheets of rain wiped out the city skyline behind us, lightning and thunder crashed in time with the waves.
We had to wear raingear even in the boat! This did not bode well for the trip.

But as we approached Pulau Bukom, the deluge let up and dark skies lightened. Although the petrochemical plants never stop churning.
There was a sliver of clear skies ahead, over the emerging submerged Cyrene Reef.
Behind us, the rain had let up. And here's the much loved dinghy that we need for a safe landing.
Without any hesitation, the intrepid team head out for the Reef, in the good hands of Jumari who once again skillfully gets the land lubbers out without mishap.
The tide is still a little higher than it ought to be. Hmm, I should really start taking notes about rain/barometric pressure/tidal prediction variations.
The whole point of coming here of course is to show Cyrene to Prof Paul.
He's such a joy to have along for our field trips as he is not only knowledgeable about all kinds of shore stuff, but also very experienced in field trips. He shared about how he spent months in Irian Jaya having to sleep in a canoe and eat blubbery sago. So I guess our trips are a breeze in comparison.

Prof Paul is really into seagrasses! So I'm very glad to be able to share Cyrene's wonderful assortment of very healthy seagrasses. Including one of my favouries, the Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium) which has cylindrical leaves!
Prof Paul takes a closer look at all our seagrasses there. I think it's fantastic that we have so many different species on a reef that lies just off Pulau Bukom, and next to major shipping lanes. That's a huge cruise ship in the background.
The seagrasses here are full of life! Prof Paul spots the Snaky sea anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis). We came across two of them today! I find that these anemones are not very common on our Southern shores.
The Cyrene Reef meadows reminds me of Chek Jawa, with animals such as peacock anemones (Order Ceriantharia).
Prof Paul spots this well camouflaged Penaeid prawn (Family Penaeidae).
And he spots this Discodoris boholiensis nudibranch! Wow, he sure has good eyes.
There were also a lot of large Ornate leaf slugs (Elysia ornata) everywhere. Possibly because of the large bloom of Hairy green seaweed (Bryopsis sp.)?
Very common on this shore are large razor sharp Fan shell clams (Family Pinnidae). Prof Paul said he used to cut himself a lot on these shells when he was doing his PhD in Indonesia.
Another Cyrene special are these T-shaped Hammer oysters (Malleus sp.) which lie freely on the ground. They are often covered with pink encrusting algae and other colourful creatures like these green gum drop-like ascidians.
At first I thought it was some new kind of sea urchin that I haven't seen before. But looking more closely, I think it is a White sea urchin (Salmacis sp.) that's darker in colour than usual. There were many of these sea urchins about, though most were well hidden under debris that they carry over themselves.
Cyrene Reef is a great place for echinoderms. Especially the Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) which occur in great abundance. The constant mizzel (miserable drizzle) and wind makes it hard to shoot submerged animals. The others also saw the Pentaceraster sea star (Pentaceraster mammilatus) and some odd in between stars.
Here's a special Knobbly which might be Nudistarre, the knobbly adopted and named by the Naked Hermit Crabs!
We saw a Knobbly that looked very similar last November on Cyrene (see photo below). The Star Trackers will know as they have figured out a way to identify and keep track of individual Knobblies by the arrangement of the knobs and bumps on the arms. Or in this case, the lack thereof? Here's what Nudistarre looks like on the Star Trackers' records.
On the sand bars, there are also lots and lots of Common sea stars (Archaster typicus). Many were in pairs, arms locked in pseudo-mating position. A position in which three is somewhat of a crowd.
While Prof Paul noticed this Common sea star that is getting it REALLY wrong.
On the sand bar, I also found this enormous Olive snail (Family Olividae). It's very handsome with a glossy shell and spotted body. I have a suspicion that the olive snails found on Cyrene Reef are different from those we commonly see elsewhere.
The tide is rather short and soon it was approaching sunset. After a quick last look, we head back for the big boat.
Once safely back, all thanks to Jumari, I found out that the rest had found interesting Giant clams! James found a shell of what might be a thought-to-be-extinct-in-Singapore Giant clam Hipppopus hippopus! While Kok Sheng found the shell of a Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) and just before they left, Mei Lin found the shell of a Burrowing giant clam (Tridacna crocea). Kok Sheng has a great photo of the shells on his blog. Alas, they didn't find any live ones, not even the one I saw previously in October last year. Well, hopefully we can find some on future trips!

Of course, they also saw lots of other interesting things. Can't wait to read about it on their blogs.

Prof Paul declared the Reef to be quite rich. Which means a lot to me as he has seen many many different shores all over the world! Yay!

Hopefully, Cyrene Reef will not be too badly affected by the major reclamation works at Pasir Panjang. Here's a photo of the works there that I took on the way to Semakau the day before when we had much better weather.
And here's a map of the reclamation site (in green) in relation to Cyrene Reefs (in yellow).
Other developments nearby include: the major petrochemical complex expansion on Pulau Bukom which is expected to come online early next year. I didn't see any signs of the soil sampling that is supposed to be taking place near Cyrene Reefs during this period.

Other posts about this trip

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