30 January 2010

Living seawalls of the Semakau Landfill

The Semakau Landfill was created by building enormously long seawalls around Pulau Saking, some submerged reefs and parts of Pulau Semakau.
Mei Lin led a small team to check out this area yesterday. We heard there was a Giant clam on the seawall facing Pulau Jong (the little island on the horizon)! Perhaps the rare Giant clam we saw at Pulau Jong?!

The seawalls are huge! They face Pulau Sebarok, the location of the 'petrol station' of our port where bunkering goes on to fuel the humungous number of ships at visit Singapore's port.
Here's the city skyline from where we were, with a sliver of the reef flats of Pulau Jong in the foreground. While we are in the city, we forget that Singapore is one of the world's busiest ports!
So, what can we see on these seemingly dead and barren seawalls? Living reefs! In surprisingly clear water!
While few corals were exposed at this not-so-low tide, there were tantalizing glimpses of much more in deeper water.
Here's an exciting group of marine life!
Two large Acropora corals (Acropora sp.) growing in the typical flat, table-top form that we don't see very often in Singapore. Wow!
And lots of other little creatures on the rock, such as sponges and zoanthids, and this special turban snail (Astrea calcar) with a star-shaped shell. We saw several of them on this shore.
We also saw several of these intriguing animals that Mei Lin had seen while diving.
It seems to be some kind of leathery soft coral.
It was tricky taking photos of the marine life. We had to wait for the just the right moment in the splashing waves to get a glimpse of them. Here's a nice colony growing on the seawall rocks in the lovely clear water!
Adding to the challenge was the super slippery rocks at this area!
After a point, the seawall was made up of giant loose rocks. The brave young ones checked it out and were particularly intrigued by a nice table-top coral.
I stayed on more stable ground. Here's my lame shot taken from far away.
From well above the ankle-twisting, slippery boulder strewn area, I had a glimpse of what marinelife settled here. Lots of corals!
There were intriguing pools too.
Mei Lin shows us how to check out such treacherously slippery areas. Stay low!
The pools are full of life! From where I was, I could see lots of soft corals!
It was very pretty. The others spent more time carefully checking out the area and saw rare corals, nudibranchs, strange anemones, sea urchins and more! Check out their blogs for all the photos and stories.
Well, high up where I was, there's life too! In the shallow pools on the flatter areas near the low water mark, there were lots of Nerite snails. There were lots of Waved nerites (Nerita undata) (left photo) and a large numbers of Ox-tongue nerites (Nerita albicilla)
Almost every pool was dotted with white Nerite egg capsules.
And even higher up, there was a narrow but very long band of tiny tenacious Knobbly periwinkle snails (Nodilittorina trochoides). I had to be careful not to step on them. And clusters of tiny hardy Star barnacles (Euraphia sp.).
A flock of seabirds flew by! But alas, no Giant clam.
As the tide started to turn, so did the weather.
How nice to see the NEA van coming out to fetch us back to the jetty! Headlights on in the looming weather. We got to shelter just as the heavens opened up. Later on I found out NEA had even sms'd me the weather warning (I usually don't check my messages when in the field). And we got a ride out too, earlier. NEA really takes care of their visitors! Thank you!

The seawalls are surprisingly rich! Mei Lin will try to dive the area and find the elusive Giant clam. Can't wait to see her photos. To find out more about our reefs underwater, join Mei Lin's I love SG reefs facebook group!

Hopefully the marine life here will not be affected by plans for the area. This stretch of water is the intended location of Very Large Floating Structures next to Pulau Sebarok. These structures will be the size of Very Large Crude Carriers and used to store petrochemicals.

On the way to Semakau, I noticed the reclamation near Labrador is getting more massive.
See the huge mountain of sand that dwarfs the yellow excavator in the right hand corner of the photo.
And the project is huge, here's a view with natural shores of Sentosa in the background (the forested portion on the right side of the photo).
Our shores are very much alive. With marvellous marine life often where we least expect it. Let's hope we can protect what we can and encourage regeneration where ever possible.

After the trip, Mei Lin and I had a great dinner with Francis and Melvin of the Dolphin and many other regulars who go out to the shores with the Dolphin. It was great catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. And the food was awesome! Thanks Melvin and Francis!

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