12 February 2013

Surprises at St. John's Island

A gorgeous sunset that money cannot buy! Among the many priceless encounters we had at St. John's Island.
The small team spotted nudibranchs, special snails and all kinds of other natural treasures.

Tse-Lynn joined us again on this trip with Ethan! On the way to the island, we dropped off another passenger at a huge ship at the container terminals opposite Sentosa. Our shores are close to major industrial facilities and yet they are still teeming with marine life.
It drizzled and there was rain in the distance as we started. While the rest headed straight out for the natural rocky shore, I decided to slowly check out the artificial lagoons created by reclamation and building seawalls around the original reef flats.
There's lots of super tiny Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) in the lagoon. With some Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) as well as other sea anemones like the Frilly sea anemone (Phymanthus sp.) and a very large Peachia anemone (Peachia sp.). There are indeed, many kinds of sea anemones on St. John's Island as the survey during the Sea Anemone Workshop in Jun 2011 revealed.
Wow, there was a Starry mouth nudibranch (Bornella stellifer) among the seagrasses.
This nudibranch has strange finger-like structures that enclose the orange-tipped rhinophores (left), and lots of transparent feathery gills (right). It has short tentacles around its mouth arranged in two star-shaped clusters.
There was a super tiny feather star and an equally tiny Wentletrap snail (Family Epitoniidae).
There are short stretches of small rocks in the lagoon. A hidden octopus at low tide is revealed by the jet of water that spouts at regular intervals.
Another delightful surprise was to find this Variegated sundial snail (Heliacus variegatus) among the zoanthids that it feeds on. It has a conical operculum (door) so at first glance it looks as if the snail is eating another snail. I only know about this because Chim Chee Kong found one at Cyrene Reef some time ago. I guess it is often overlooked because it looks similar to other common snails.
There were many Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) on the sandy shore.
The tide wasn't low enough to expose the reef that can be found outside the seawall. But corals have started to creep into the lagoon.
Sankar found this Spotted moon snail (Natica gualteriana) which I rarely encounter. Ethan found a special nudibranch, Platydoris scabra to the delight of Chay Hoon. We also saw a Spotted-foot nudibranch (Discodoris lilacina) under a rock.
I finally reached the natural rocky shores as it neared sunset. Here, there are some patches of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides), overlooking the city centre on the mainland.
There's some marvellous natural cliffs on St. John's Island, draped with all kinds of plants and trees that no longer commonly seen in Singapore because we have lost these habitats. Here's more of what can be seen on the cliffs and natural rocky shores during my trip in Nov 12.
I caught up with the rest as they were checking out the rocky lagoons in the pink setting sun, with the Sisters Islands on the horizon.
Just before it got completely dark, the sun threw a final spectacular show. Brief but glorious. So much better than fireworks!
There were plans to drill near the reefs and even inside the lagoon in Apr-May. Our exploration  included the red drill sites indicated in the Port Marine Notice of the drilling operation. So far, I didn't observe any serious changes to the shore since our last trip here in Nov 2012, although I didn't get a chance to see the reefs outside the seawall.
Here's more about St. John's Island, how to get there and what to see and do.

Posts by others on this trip
  • Mei Lin with some insights into the rocks of the rocky shore.
  • Kok Sheng with lots more critters found at the natural rocky shores. 
  • Pei Yan with fire anemone and other amazing animals.

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