21 May 2013

Where none have gone before on Day 2 of the Southern Expedition

Today, the Dredge Team surveyed the seabed at 100m! The deepest in Singapore ever surveyed! (So far)
 What did we find in the Singapore Deeps?

The Singapore Deeps is a nice way of referring to a part of the seabed that is more than 200m deep! It's somewhere near St John's Island, and kind of Singapore's 'trench'. But since it's not very long and is more circular, it's more proper to call it a Big Deep Hole. The key piece of equipment to help us do this is this brand new winch! Thanks to Dr David Lane for letting me photograph from off his camera! And thanks to Prof Peter Ng for suggesting the title for the blog post.
It's Basket Star Country Down There! There were lots and lots and lots of basket stars, unfortunately mostly in bits and pieces.
There were also lots of other echinoderms like super spiky sea urchins!
There were also big sea stars and little sea stars and lots more. I'm sure we will soon see better photos of these finds!
Every bit of the precious sediments in the small sample pulled up from the deep is carefully checked for interesting animals.
Dr Bertrand (wearing hat) is a deep sea expert who leads all our dredge survey has a chat with Melissa Diagana, among the intrepid volunteers with the Survey.
Melissa has authored a lovely article about the Northern Expedition for the Nature Society (Singapore)'s magazine NatureWatch. Thank you Melissa! She and other volunteers are hard at work sorting out all the amazing finds of the day.
The Ladies of the Crypt are busier than ever. Dr Joelle Lai is figuring out how to deal with this tiny razorfish.
The Photo Team remains hard at work taking nice photos of all the animals. Here's a land hermit crab in a land snail shell, so a photo of it on sand is natural.
Here's a strange piece of equipment that I came across in the Photo Lab. Everyone was busy so I didn't want to disturb them to ask what it does. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.
In the late morning, I joined Prof Daphne and Dr Zeehan Jaafar to do an important if rather unadventurous survey. We have a look at the artificial water table and tanks and even the drains at the Tropical Marine Science Institute.
Here we can find some sea anemones that Prof Daphne has found more commonly in artificial aquariums rather than in the wild. They are often considered aquarium pests. Their identity is rather confused and will take time to sort out because so many people have named all kinds of similar sea anemones with the same name.
Meanwhile, Dr Tan Heok Hui and Dr Arthur Anker had been snorkelling in the lagoons and collected all kinds of amazing animals stuck to the pontoons or elsewhere on the shore. Like this enormous bryozoan!
Here's some of the interesting animals found after their quick snorkelling trips. Lots of tiny snapping shrimps, even some sea skaters (insects that live on the sea!), a swimming clam, and all kinds of other colourful creatures.
All too soon, it was time for lunch. Which was fabulous with a choice of Western or Thai. Wow! Sorry for the poor photos. I was too hungry to notice the camera settings were off.
After lunch, the tide was lowish. So Prof Daphne and I had a little look around in the lagoon.
Then, together with Dr Jim Lowry, we headed out to check the tiny patch of mangroves on St John's Island.
It's not all that tiny after all! We had a good poke around. We didn't find any sea anemones, unlike in mangroves in the North. Zero is still data, it makes us wonder why there are so many anemones on our Northern mangroves but not in the South.
But we did find other interesting marine life here. The mangroves on St John's Island may be tiny but were quite rich with all kinds of interesting plants and animals that we typically find in our mangroves.
And what are these brownish mud-like things on the underside of mangrove saplings? They look suspiciously like the amphibious bryozoans that Dr Gordon taught us about. No worries, Dr Kevin Tilbrook will soon be joining the Survey and will tell us what these are!
Tonight I stayed for dinner and didn't regret it at all. It was delicious!
Tomorrow, the first of the dive surveys will begin. Led by Dr Tan Heok Hui. Here, he is showing me the gear to be used for 'coral brushing' where divers will carefully brush dead corals to remove tiny animals that live there. The big red thing is a kind of balloon, which when filled with air helps to raise the gear up quickly to the surface. Can't wait to find out what we will find after the dive surveys tomorrow!
Tomorrow there will also be another survey of the Singapore Deeps!

During the Expedition, I will try to post live updates on twitter as well as to facebook and the Mega Marine Survey facebook page. These will get less frequent as I start to do field work. I'm not very good at the smart phone in the field, and also, phone connections are not always strong enough to post regularly. So also check out tweets by participants using the hashtag for the Survey  #MegaMarine. These are consolidated on the Mega Marine Survey blog.

Volunteer sign up for the Southern Expedition are already closed due to limited places and early logistical arrangements needed for participation.

But no worries, you CAN still join the Survey! Lots of surveys will continue after the Expedition, just at a less frenzied rate. There will be lots of other opportunities for volunteers to participate in dredging, field surveys as well as laboratory sessions. To join the Mega Marine Survey, register your interest in this form and you'll be invited to join the mailing list to receive updates on the Survey and sign up for Survey activities.  Also check out the FAQs for more about the Survey.

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