30 May 2013

Exploring Base Camp on Day 11 at the Southern Expedition

Today, a few of us stayed closer to Base Camp and discovered all kinds of interesting critters!
The rest of the teams visited more exotic shores with equally interesting finds.

Every day, the low tide shifts by about an hour, which means departure gets later and later during the week. Today, we left at sunrise! One team headed out for Terumbu Raya, another for Terumbu Pempang Laut while yet another surveyed Pulau Hantu.
Prof Daphne and I decided to survey the lagoons at Base Camp for the 'brown peachia' that she is looking for.
We did see many other sea anemones, like the Frilly sea anemone, Haddon's carpet anemone with shrimp and a Giant carpet anemone.
Alas, we didn't find any of 'brown peachia' anemones even though we searched both lagoons. I went back to the first lagoon to look for other things and found Prof Peter and Dr JC there.
They were using the 'yabby pump' which is the only way to get rarey animals that are seldom seen above ground. It's a suck-and-sieve operation that requires a lot of energy to work the pump.
Among the animals they managed to suck up were a mantis shrimp, ghost shrimps and other little crabs. Also some Edwardsid sea anemones.
There were some small colonies of different kinds of corals. Also flowery soft corals and zoanthids.
I almost missed this little crab that looks just like a rock!
I was thrilled to find a Bornella nudibranch! Also a flatworm.
As the tide fell, a variety of seagrasses were revealed in the lagoon!
The seagrass meadows were dotted with Halimeda seaweeds.
There were even seagrasses growing on the rockier parts of the lagoon.
There were several clumps of Tape seagrass, large expanses of Spoon seagrass and some Needle seagrass as well as small amounts of Serrated ribbon seagrass.
We found a very large Fan clam. And once again, relied on Dr Sammy and his gianormous knife to open up the clam.
Everyone has a closer look to see if there is anything precious there. No, we are not looking for pearls.
Instead, we are looking for animals that live inside these clams. Hurray, we found a pair of snapping shrimps!
Although there was much finger prodding, no crabs were found in the clam.
Here's a closer look at the shrimps.
Meanwhile, the team visiting Terumbu Pempang Laut faced nasty weather soon after they landed. Nevertheless, they went ahead and did a great survey with many interesting finds. See Ivan's tweets for more of what they did and found.
When I returned to Base Camp in the evening, I saw an unusually large number of people at the dining area. What's happening? Oh, it time for a group photo!
What were the special finds of the day? Henrietta found a Bobtail squid, and a super tiny sea star at Pulau Hantu. She showed me photos of them on her laptop.
Here's a closer look at the animals she saw.
Rene showed me this beautiful photo of a tiny hermit crab. According to Dr Rahayu (aka Yoyo), this hermit crab was only recently described and a specimen has not been obtained since 1906. It was found in one of our trawl dredges. This shows that the bottom of our seas are very much alive!
Dr Kevin is very pleased with this humungous cluster of bryozoans. This was taken off the pontoon at the Base Camp lagoon.
 Here's a closer look at it. If you want to find out more about them, do come for Dr Kevin Tilbrook's talk on 1 Jun (Sat) at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Today there was also another deep dredge, with lots of basket stars. These are now so commonly found in the dredge surveys that there isn't much excitement about them. Compared to the first time we found one during the Northern Expedition. Thanks to Ivan who diligently tweeted all day, I learnt that there was also a snorkeling survey in the Base Camp lagoon.

Among the perks for cat lovers at the Expedition are the many cats at St John's Island. There is a pair of inseparable cats at Base Camp. One of them will raise his paw to beg for food when we are having dinner.
Throughout the Expedition, everytime we land or leave St. John's Island, we spend time at the jetty with this beautiful rather pear-shaped cat. Today I found out his name is 'Chempedak' and indeed he does resemble the rotund fruit.
In a few hours, we head out for our last morning intertidal trip of the Expedition. Although the trips have been exhausting, it's so sad to see them come to an end so quickly.

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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