22 March 2011

Wet and wild at Cyrene

The first predawn low spring tides for the year have started! A small team of hard core enthusiasts gathered at 5am to check out Cyrene Reef.
Unfortunately, it is also the season for 'the Sumatras'. These are powerful predawn storms with violent winds and heavy rain. Just as we got into the boat, we got hit by a Sumatra!


We waited an hour in the safety of the marina for the worst of the weather to clear. Soon enough, we made safe landing in the care of Alex, Thai and Jumari. It was just before sunrise, the lights at the massive industrial installations on Jurong Island were still ablaze.
In the drizzle we headed out quickly to make up for lost time.
One of the things I wanted to do on this trip to check out the coral bleaching situation at Cyrene which we first observed in Jun 2010. More about coral bleaching on Bleach Watch Singapore.
Bleaching corals seen last year.
I was relieved to see no bleached corals today. There are still many large hard corals in the small area that I checked out today.
The large hard corals I came across were nice normal brown.
As usual, the most abundant hard coral here are the Favid corals (Family Faviidae). And they were all in their usual colours, despite the rain.
There were several Pore corals (Porites sp.) that were very pale, but the tiny polyps were bluish and not yellow or white. Others were the usual brown. I'm not sure what this means.
Other hard corals I saw included a happy and healthy Flowery disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) and one colony of Blue coral (Heliopora coerulea).
I also came across several medium to large sized Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae). All in their usual colours.
There were many healthy Asparagus flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae) in their usual purply-pink shades.
Some were teeming with tiny colourful brittle stars (Ophiothela danae)! This is something we generally only observe during a night trip. During the day, perhaps the brittle stars are better hidden in their flowery host?
I only saw one other flowery soft coral, it seemed fine.
There were lots of these Chocolate sponges (Spheciospongia cf. vagabunda). Each tiny hole in the sponge is occupied by a tiny brittle star!
I saw about six of these colourful Diamond wrasses (Halichoeres dussumieri) flopped out on the green carpet of Bryopsis seaweeds on the reefs. They did not seem distressed. I'm not sure why there were so many in a small area. Something to do with the rain? This fish is commonly seen on our Northern shores like Chek Jawa and Changi.
I see this Brown-striped wrasse (Halichoeres bicolor) less frequently. Today, there was one also flopping about on the surface. A check with my records and it's my first time seeing these fishes on Cyrene! Although they are quite commonly sighted on our other shores, usually at night. I guess this is because we seldom visit Cyrene at night, and in the rain!
Always a delight to encounter, the colourful Mosaic crab (Lophozozymus pictor). It is the most poisonous crab in Singapore! Its bright colours and patterns advertise this, and the apt technical term for this is 'warning coloration'.
Most marine life don't like fresh water. This Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) puckered up in obvious annoyance at the rain. My fingers were starting to resemble prunes, so I feel the same way.
Alas, the drizzle turned into driving rain, and the skies got darker.
Dark clouds loom over Pasir Panjang contain terminals.
Eventually, we were caught in a torrential downpour that wiped out the view of all landmarks around us.
The city skyline is just a blur on the horizon.
Just before I put away Big Cam, I spotted this large moon snail that I have not seen before. It was quite large, about 4cm in diameter.
It doesn't look exactly like the Eggwhite moon snail (Polinices albumen). It's not as flat, the 'slot' on the underside is not of the same shape and the colours on the shell is slightly different. I'm not really sure what it is.
The rain made it impossible to continue surveying the shore. So Andy and I got started on our other objective on this trip, to haul out an abandoned driftnet found a few days earlier. Fortunately, Dr Hsu came by to give us a hand. This effort is part of Project Driftnet.
On the way back to the marina, we had a closer look at the astonishingly massive works to build the boardwalk at Berlayar Creek. Huge piles have been sunk into the rocky shore there.
More about marine life seen earlier at Berlayar Creek.
At the end of the trip we were totally soaked and chilled. But Cyrene never fails to amaze and the rest of the team saw all kinds of fascinating marine life. Check out the links to posts by others on the trip below. Thank you also to Dr Hsu and family for their generous donation towards the trip cost!

More about Cyrene Reef!

Tomorrow, another predawn trip to another submerged reef. Let's hope the weather is kinder to us!

Posts by others on this trip

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