12 August 2010

First trip to Terumbu Pempang Laut

Another glorious sunrise as we arrive on Terumbu Pempang Laut.
It's our first trip to this enormous submerged reef that lies just off Pulau Bukom's industrial installations, still lighted up in the first light of dawn. The dark mass next to Pulau Bukom is Pulau Hantu.

We had earlier visited the neighbouring Terumbu Pempang Darat and Terumbu Pempang Tengah. What will we see on Terumbu Pempang Laut?
After dropping the rest of us off at Terumbu Pempang Laut, "terumbu trotting" Mei Lin heads off with Jumari into the sunrise to check out Terumbu Pempang Tengah where a giant clam was sighted on our last visit.
Terumbu Pempang Laut is quite large, with a wide rubbly flat. In the distance is Pulau Bukom.
It was quite a relief to see very little bleaching on this shore.
Most of the Favid corals (Family Favidae) were in their usual bright colours.
More colourful Favid corals that are commonly seen on our Southern shores too.
I saw several colonies of Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.) and small Goniopora corals (Goniopora sp.), most were not bleached.
I saw several large colonies of Crinkled sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.) that were nice and blue or green, several Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.) that were nice and brown, although many of the Flowery disk corals (Turbinaria sp.) were still somewhat bleaching.
I saw one large beautifully formed Lettuce coral (Pavona sp.) and many of these odd bumpy branched Pore corals (Porites sp.) as well as one Pebble coral (Astreopora sp.). I also saw two Acropora corals (Acropora sp.), one was bleaching.
The soft corals were mostly unbleached. And seemed healthy. There were many large purplish Asparagus flowery soft corals (Family Neptheidae) and the leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) were mostly back to normal.
I saw one of these odd soft corals, while Dr Hsu saw another. I can tell it's a soft coral because the tiny polyps on this colony has branched tentacles. Other than that, I don't really know what it is.
There are deep pools here and there on the reef flats.
The deep pools shelter all kinds of fishes and marine life. I didn't really have time to explore all of them carefully. In one of the pools, I saw several large Magnificent anemones (Heteractis magnifica)! They do live up to their name.
I saw one Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) which had an anemonefish well hidden under it. There were many Frilly anemones (Phymanthus sp.) too.
The wide rubbly reef flats were lively with many different kinds of marine life, some of them quite colourful!
I saw these lovely bluish Carpet corallimorps (Order Corallimorpharia). And everywhere there were clumps of zoanthids (Order Zoanthidea) but they were 'well behaved' and did not dominate the shores.
I also saw many of the sponges commonly seen on our Southern shores.
Although it was daylight, I came across two small octopuses. They were quite well camouflaged. These animals are usually more active in the dark.
There were lots of fishes large and small in the many pools. But most were too quick to photograph. I only managed a shot of a pretty little Copperband butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus) and a Worm eel (Muraenichthys sp.). Sam saw a pool full of Blue-spotted fantail rays (Taeniura lymma)!
Crabs were plentiful on this shore. There were lots of swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) of all kinds, as well as Red egg crabs (Atergatis integerrimus) and of course many Hairy crabs (Family Pilumnidae).
Alas Mei Lin couldn't locate the giant clam on Terumbu Pempang Tengah, but we did find one Burrowing giant clam (Tridacna crocea) on Terumbu Pempang Laut.
There doesn't seem to be large seagrass meadows on Terumbu Pempang Laut. But there are good growths of seagrasses among the corals and on the sand flats. All the short strap-like seagrasses that I looked at turned out to be Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii). There were also much Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), some Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) and Mei Lin saw some Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.).
There were many different kinds of seaweeds on this shore too. The most abundant being the brown Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.) which is now in bloom all over our Southern shores.
There are stretches of sandy shores too.
Just before we left in the fast rising tide, I saw a small group of Common sea stars (Archaster typicus).
I came across one abandoned driftnet. It was well encrusted with seaweeds so it was probably abandoned a long time ago. Though now it will probably not trap any animals as it is so well encrusted, it must have killed many for a long time. Sigh.
We couldn't really cover this huge reef properly in the short low tide period. It's certainly worth a return trip!

Tomorrow, back to Cyrene Reef again!

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