17 May 2010

Clam hunt at Pulau Jong

The Giant Clam Hunt resumes as we head for the Southern shores this morning with Mei Lin aka Giant Clam Gal.
And what do you know, almost as soon as we landed Fidel finds one! It's amazing. You can see Singapore's business district from the Giant Clam!

Fidel, the Finder of Clam, is with the Earth Observatory of Singapore at NTU and has joined us to have a look at the sedimentary rock formations of Pulau Jong. He is with the 'Volcano Group' at the Observatory. We are certainly glad he has come on this trip! The clam is just next to his right foot.
We thought we had lost the other Giant clam that we saw on a much earlier trip. But fortunately, much later, Kok Sheng found it! Hurray!
Mei Lin had a closer look at it and she thinks it's not Tridacna maxima after all, but just our usual Tridacna squamosa. Ah well, it's still a lovely clam.
Pulau Jong is a haven for leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae). Here's one view of Pulau Jong's coral coated shores with the Pasir Panjang container terminals and city skyline on the horizon.
Pulau Jong lies right next to Pulau Sebarok, the location of the 'petrol station' of our world-class and among the busiest ports in the world. There are also plans to locate massive floating oil storage tanks here. These tanks will be the size of VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carrier).
On the other side of Pulau Jong is Singapore' only landfill, the Semakau Landfill. The white building on the horizon is the marine transfer station, where barges bring incinerated ash from the mainland for unloading to the landfill. In fact, the walls on the landfill facing Pulau Jong also have lots of corals!
And on the Northern side of Pulau Jong is Pulau Bukom, the location of massive petrochemical plants.
Despite the proximity of these large industrial facilities, Pulau Jong is very much alive. Among the hard corals I saw were: Yellow encrusting disk coral (Turbinaria sp.), Flowery disk corals (Turbinaria sp.), a pretty pale green Pore coral (Porites sp.), a pale pink plate Montipora coral (Montipora sp.) and a branching montipora coral (Montipora sp.) and several large Tongue mushroom corals (Herpolitha sp.).
Some special hard corals I saw include this colony that seems to be a boulder shaped horn coral (Hydnophora sp.) which I rarely see.
And a pretty pastel green Pebble coral (Astreopora sp.).
Alas, some of the hard corals did seem to be bleaching, a sign of stress.
A special encounter was this funny looking colony. It's probably some kind of leathery soft coral.
I saw several Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea), but this one is probably the prettiest one I've seen. I failed to see any 'Nemo's in these anemones, but the rest of team spotted some.
I also saw this strange anemone. I'm not really sure what it is.
Strangely, I didn't come across any Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.) today. Or any other kinds of anemones.

But I did see lots of Long black sea cucumbers (Holothuria leucospilota) and one White-rumped sea cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora). The rest of the team also saw some special sea cucumbers.
And under the many stones on the shore, many little African sea cucumbers (Afrocucumis africana) that has been recently identified by Siyang.
On the subject of echinoderms, Chay Hoon found a really tiny sea star!! We're not sure what it is.

There were of course lots of crabs. Especially swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) and the fierce Red-eyed reef crab (Eriphia ferox). There were also many Red egg crabs (Atergatis integerrimus).
And Andrew and I saw a little octopus as soon as we landed, while it was still a bit dark.
There were also several large Giant top shell snails (Trochus niloticus).
Of course the rest of the team saw lots of interesting slugs and crawlies. The only tiny things I saw were a little blue-line flatworm (Pseudoceros sp.), a tiny white Jorunna funebris with only a few black spots, and equally small Phyllidiella pustolosa.
I tend to notice only immobile things, like this clump of seaweeds that I've not seen before.
There were lots of fishes in the lagoons left behind at low tide but they were too fast for me to photograph. Among them, several stingrays! Fortunately, today we were Stonefish Free. Phew!

Later on, I learnt from Fidel that on Pulau Jong and some of our Southern islands we can see the 'Jurong formation', a kind of sedimentary rock formation. These are made up of eroded bits of rock squashed together kind of like layer cake or kueh lapis. These are pushed up and start eroding again into the beautiful forms that we see on our natural cliffs. These rocks can be 250 million years old. Wow! We can see these formations also on Labrador, Sentosa, St. John's Island, Lazarus Island and Big Sisters Island.
Pulau Jong is a tricky place to land as the currents and waves here are rather strong. We are lucky to have Jumari and the crew of Summit Marine to make sure we have a safe landing and departure.
But we seem to have poor luck with weather on our visits to Pulau Jong, it was wet and soggy the last time we visited too. This morning when I got up at 4am, it was pouring outside and this was what I saw on the NEA online weather map. Quite depressing.
The overall map of the weather over our part of the world didn't look much better. It is the season for the fearsome Sumatras, a frightening pre-dawn weather spectacle we would not want to encounter in the open sea. Still, as usual, we went ahead to meet up for the trip.
Fortunately, by the time we arrived on Pulau Jong, the rain dwindled to a drizzle and eventually stopped during our trip. Picking up only as we were due to leave. With umbrellas, we could still get our work done as there was little wind.
As Fidel said, if we don't go out when it rains, we will never get anything done. Bravo! Yes indeed.

It was also a delight to have Andrew with us. He checked out the coastal forest and saw a big nest there. Possibly a sign of nesting by the Great billed heron? Wow, that would be awesome! Joseph Lai came with us a while back and has shared a list of plants found on Pulau Jong.

Pulau Jong is among the few last untouched islands that we have. Let's hope it remains wild and beautiful.

Another predawn trip tomorrow! Hope we find MORE clams!

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