15 July 2010

First trip to Terumbu Pempang Tengah

We arrive at dawn at the middle of the three large submerged reefs off Pulau Hantu.
It's our first trip here!

'Tengah' means middle in Malay and indeed it is in between two large submerged reefs, and next to Terumbu Pempang Darat which we visited recently.
On the way in, the lights of the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom makes it look pretty, except for the big cloud of emissions hanging over the area.
We pass Pulau Hantu, which is just in front of Pulau Bukom.
As the scorching sun rose, we have a better look at the reef. It is huge! In the distance is Jurong Island, and an enormous car-carrying vessel, called a RORO - roll on, roll off - as cars can be driven on and off the vessel.
On the other side, the tiny Pulau Salu, and a bit of the larger Pulau Sudong. There are lots of leathery soft corals on this reef, and most seem to still be bleaching.
Several of the large Favid corals (Family Faviidae) were also white and pink.
But I was heartened to see that most of the hard corals seem to be unbleached. I saw several Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.) that were their normal colours. On earlier trips elsewhere, every one of these corals were bleached white.
Unfortunately, most of the Brain corals (Family Mussidae) seem to still be bleaching.
I also saw one Lettuce coral (Pavona sp.) and one Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.).
Many of the Favid corals were not bleached and had their normal colours.
I came across many colonies of Pebble coral (Astreopora sp.) in various colours. I only saw one bleached colony.
I saw two colonies of Carnation corals (Pectinia sp.).
I saw two colonies of Acropora coral (Acropora sp.). Jun said there were a lot more in the area she explored.
The Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.) seemed mostly alright with only a few bleached white.
The Disk corals (Turbinaria sp.) are also alright, while the thicker Flowery disk corals seem to be regaining their colours.
I saw one large colony of this Bracket mushroom coral.
I saw one encrusting horn coral (Hydnophora sp.), a kind of coral that I rarely see.
I saw two large Tongue mushroom corals (Herpolitha sp.)
An intriguing find was this strange animal. There were many clustered together and they did not have a hard skeleton. They do seem to be sea anemones, but I'm not sure.
Here's a closer look at the strange creatures.
Other anemones I saw included the Wriggly star anemone and many Frilly sea anemones (Phymathus sp.) most of which were not bleached. I also saw several patches of corallimorphs (Order Corallimorpharia).

There were seagrasses everywhere but in sparse patches and they all seem to be doing poorly, being mostly covered in scum. I saw Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) and Serrated ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea serrulata), as well as Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides).
The reef had the usual assortment of common and colourful sponges. These are food for our favourite slugs.
But as usual, my sightings of nudibranchs are limited to very common ones like the Jorunna funebris and Phyllidiella pustolosa.
Although the reef is completely submerged at high tide and is far away from dry land, it was crawling with many little Marine spiders (Desis martensi). These spiders shelter in air-filled holes in the coral rubble at high tide, and come out at low tide to hunt.
Fishes are really hard to shoot especially in daylight. But I managed to get a shot of these green fishes. I don't know what they are.
I also saw this small fish, again, I have no idea what it is.
A large Carpet eel-blenny (Congrogadus subducens) was well hidden among the Sargassum seaweeds, which seem to be starting to bloom.
Soon, the reefs will be covered in a brown curtain of these seaweeds. While this means we can't see the animals well, I hope it cools down the corals and help ease the bleaching on our reefs.

Jun found a Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)! Chay Hoon took the GPS coordinates for Mei Lin who is not on this trip as she is overseas now. And the rest of the team also found lots of other interesting things.

I'm rushing off now for the Guides of Singapore shores workshops so I'll add the links to the factsheets later on. (Finally updated the links!)

Tomorrow, ANOTHER dawn trip to Cyrene with TeamSeagrass!

See also Sijie's post about the trip on his blog.

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