11 October 2010

First visit to South Cyrene

Yesterday, we visited a submerged reef for the first time!
We arrive at HIGH tide with only tiny bits of the reef sticking out near the beacon!

What we refer to as Cyrene is actually properly called Terumbu Pandan, the largest of the three submerged reefs that are collectively called Cyrene Reefs. The other two are the much smaller: Pandan Beacon and South Cyrene.
Siti arranged this trip as satellite imaging suggested that there were seagrasses here. For the first time in a long while, we make the trip with Melvin, Francis and the crew from Dolphin. They have a new landing boat and a lovely step ladder for a more lady-like landing.
It was a half and hour or so before more of the submerged reef emerged in the outgoing tide. With Pulau Bukom in the background.
This didn't stop Siti from looking for seagrasses in deep water! Here she is with a giant ship and Jurong island in the background.
It was a windy day so it was a bit of a challenge to shoot in high water. But I couldn't resist with this active octopus. There were many of them on this shore, emerging especially near sunset.
Later on, I came across a small Blue-spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma).
And a White-rumped sea cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora) busy feeding. We also saw the Long black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota).
And I actually managed to see a nudibranch all by myself. It's the commonly encountered Black phyllid (Phyllidiella nigra).
Among the busy creatures on the reef were several Giant reef worms (Eunice aphroditois). Those I observed snuck out of their hiding places to snatch a mouthful of Sargassum seaweed before retracting rapidly back. Are these large and scary looking creatures mainly vegetarian? There were also some White spiral fanworms (Family Sabellidae).
Siti spotted many of tiny transparent shrimps and the ones I photographed were fat with eggs! There were many Blue swimming crabs (Thalamita sp.) and I saw one Red egg crab (Atergatis integerrimus) as well as several Hairy crabs (Family Pilumnidae).
Later on, I learnt that Kok Sheng spotted Arabian cowries (Cypraea arabica) and that a Giant top shell snail (Trochus niloticus) was also seen. Of course Chay Hoon spots some special slugs too.

There were several Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) but I only got to them when they were exposed out of water.
All the different kinds of Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.) were seen on this small reef. I saw one that was still bleaching, but the rest seemed alright.
There were also some medium sized colonies of the common leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) and small colonies of Flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae). I didn't see any that were bleaching.
This colony of leathery soft corals seems to be splitting up. Something we've been seeing on other shores too. I'm still not sure what is going on.
There was a colony of Starry leathery corals too, something that I don't encounter often.
I didn't see any hard corals that were completely bleached. Most seemed totally recovered. There were many Pore hard corals (Porites sp.), many with white bite marks made by fishes (I learnt about this from Siti). I also saw one bright green Boulder sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.) and another blue crinkled Sandpaper coral (Psammocora sp.).
I saw many different Disk corals (Turbinaria sp.) and they were all not bleached.
I also saw one small brain coral (Family Mussidae), several small Goniopora corals (Goniopora sp.) and some Blue corals (Heliopora coerulea) which are actually not hard corals.
Most of the hard corals were Favids (Family Faviidae), as is with most of our shores. Most of them seemed to be alright.
There were several large patches of Sea mat zoanthids (Palythoa tuberculosa), and many clumps of Broad zoanthids (Palythoa mutuki).
I saw many of the common sponges usually encountered on such a shore.
I saw the usual variety of seaweeds, here's some of the green seaweeds.
And some of the brown and red seaweeds. It's the season for Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.) to bloom and they were in abundance on this shore too.
Alas, Siti couldn't find any seagrasses. Not a single blade. In fact, the entire shore seemed a bit quiet to me. Perhaps it was just recovering from coral bleaching? Another sad sight, signs of fish traps laid on this reef.
All too soon, it was sunset. We enjoyed it, and the wonderful clear weather. Thanks to the Melvin Effect.
Although it was disappointing not to find seagrasses here, it was good to have checked out South Cyrene. And it does make us better appreciate the more abundant and verdant life on Terumbu Pandan.

More about Cyrene Reefs on the Cyrene Reef Exposed blog.

Others who blogged about this trip:
Pei Hao's photo of South Cyrene was featured in National Geographic's weekly selection! Congratulations!

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