24 April 2016

Pulau Semakau North in a purple sunrise

We arrived at dawn to a strange purple sunrise. The northern tip of Pulau Semakau is quite reefy.
Fortunately, we didn't see much coral bleaching. We encountered lots of Giant clams and other interesting finds!


Before sunrise, there were ominous flickers in the sky. Soon, we could hear the thunder. The full moon was blurry even though the sky appeared clear, probably due to haze. Is this why we had a purple sunrise? Fortunately, the storm did not head towards us and we had a nice cool dry morning. (Russel showed us how to get a photo of the lightning by taking a video of the storm!)
Here's a video of Pulau Semakau's northern shore during the purple sunrise!
Purple sunrise over Pulau Semakau South
Among the interesting finds was this Xenia soft coral which has large polyps that pulsate!
Xenia soft coral (Heteroxenia sp.)
Kok Sheng also spotted a Leathery anemone, which we rarely encounter.
Leathery anemone (Heteractis crispa)
There were also some Bubble tip anemones and many Frilly anemones. All those I saw were not bleaching.
I saw two Giant carpet anemones and one of them was a bit pinkish. Oh dear. Alas, none of the large sea anemones that I saw appear to have any anemonefishes.
Russel found the Fluted giant clam near our departure point that we saw on our last trip here in Jul 2015. I was at first worried as it appears pale, but Mei Lin assured that it was not bleaching. Mei Lin also found a large Burrowing clam, while Kok Sheng found another Fluted giant clam.
Here's video clip of the Giant clam and a Scallop that I saw.
Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) and Scallop (Family Pectinidae)
At first, I thought it was just a nice unbleached coral, then I realised it was a very large Cushion star!
I surveyed the higher reef flats. There are lots of leathery soft corals here, and most of them looked alright.
But I did see one rather yellowish leathery soft coral and the two Asparagus flowery soft corals I saw were rather pale.
Most of the corals on this shore are boulder shaped. And most of them were not bleaching. I saw more bleaching corals on our last trip here in Jul 2015.
I did not see many plate corals. Those I saw were small.
There are many Brain corals here and most of them seemed alright although many were pale.
There were some Boulder pore corals and most were nice and brown. Only a few were pale or had bleaching spots. I also saw some small colonies of Anemone corals and most seemed alright although some were greenish.
Some of the corals I saw were rather pale or oddly coloured.
Here's a video clip of some of the corals I saw.
Various corals at Pulau Semakau
At Marina Keppel Bay, all the corals I saw growing on the sides of the pontoon were not bleaching.
The tide was very short today and I did not have time to check out the seagrass areas. On the reefy area, I did see a few clumps of long Tape seagrass (not cropped).

As we left Pulau Semakau, two small boats zoomed in. People on one boat looked like they were about to retrieve fish traps (bubu) laid on the reef. While the other looked like recreational fishermen.
On the way home, we went past a little island near Pulau Bukom with mangrove trees on it. I believe this is where the Great billed herons in the area are said to nest. Alex said he had once brought some surveyors to the shore and there were nice seagrasses there. How nice to know that!
There were two large ferries tied up to buoys near Pulau Bukom. If they can be provided with buoys, hopefully this means it is possible to also allow a buoy for recreational divers near Pulau Hantu. Buoys help reduce the damage to the reef as boats then do not have to drop anchor onto the sea bottom.
Pulau Semakau is NOT the same as the Semakau Landfill. The Landfill was created by destroying all of Pulau Saking, and about half of the original Pulau Semakau by building a very long seawall. Fortunately, the landfill was constructed and is managed in such a way that the original mangroves, seagrass meadows and reefs on Pulau Semakau were allowed to remain. The eastern shore of Pulau Semakau is right next to the seawall of the Semakau Landfill, opposite the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom.

It is NOT true that the construction of the Landfill created the marine life found on Pulau Semakau. The marine life was there long before the Landfill was built.
As the existing half of the Landfill was used up, the Phase 2 of the Landfill was just recently launched. This involved closing the gap of the seawall on the Semakau Landfill, forming one big pool where incinerated ash will be dumped. NEA worked to limit the damage to natural shores during the construction work for this expansion of the landfill.

Let's hope Pulau Semakau's natural shores survives the anticipated bleaching period!

Photos by others on this trip

Others on the trip include Ian Siah and Nick Yap


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