25 May 2013

Terumbu Semakau on Day 5.5 of the Southern Expedition

We gather at 3.30am for our first official predawn trip of the Southern Expedition.
We had a great trip with lots of special finds as well as good representatives of our commonly encountered marine life.

In the dark under the full mooon, we made a quick safe landing on this beautiful submerged reef that lies just next to Singapore's only landfill, and just across from the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, all lighted up at night.
Despite it's location, Terumbu Semakau has a rich living reef. With all kinds of corals, sponges and other animals. There's lots of life too under the coral!
The regular team of volunteers really wanted to show Prof Daphne the Merten's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii) that we have been seeing recently. Very soon after we arrived Kok Sheng found two Merten's carpet anemones. As we headed towards him, we found another one!
It takes a bit of practice to be able to tell the above anemone from the more abundant Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) below.
There were also many Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica). This one had a 'Nemo' in it. We saw the usual sea anemones and later Dr Kitithorn Sarnpanich showed us a lovely photos of a Haekel's anemone (Actinostephanus haekeli) that he saw.
How nice to come across this tiny sea star which has yet to be identified.
The colourful encrustations often make us overlook really large animals that hide under rocks and rubble. Can you spot a large animals in this photo?
It is a very large Hammer oyster (Malleus sp.)! I've outlined it in yellow.
We also came across this 'field' of branching Montipora corals (Montipora sp.). We stopped to look for the many critters that usually live in such stony forests.
I saw a little zig-zag oyster and a well camouflaged crab, as well as many different kinds of fishes, some of them quite large. Our last trip here was for the recce in Apr 2012.
As the sun rises, the water also rose. It was time to quickly leave the reef as it submerged beneath the waters. Thankfully, we had Alex and Jumari of Summit Marine to look after the large team and get everyone on and off the reef safely.
It's timely to visit Terumbu Semakau because of the nearby ongoing work by Shell to replace the SBM pipeline which would involved dredging and other major works. I attended a Shell briefing on this in Sep 2012.
Click on image for larger view.
Here's larger view of  Terumbu Semakau and other islands and reefs nearby. Very soon, in the first light of day, we are dropped off at the doorstep to Base Camp. This is the first time I'm seeing Alex's boats from high above. The boats sure do look nice in the morning sun!
As we got back, we immediately get down to processing all the finds!
First, the animals are sorted into their scientific groups so that they can be sent to the relevant scientists. The animals will also be photographed, tissue samples taken to preserve their genetic information and the animals eventually preserved so that they can be studied years later.
Wow, we sure have a lot of pretty little snails on our reefs.
What a lovely bouquet of sponges!
One of our special finds was this Domed elbow crab found by Marcus Ng.  We also found a good variety of fishes. I tried to include a Burrowing snake eel (Pisodonophis crancrivorous), but it jumped out of my pail!
Chay Hoon found a tiny nudi (of course).
Marcus and I had to rush off to catch the morning boat back to the mainland. While waiting at the jetty, we spotted a humungous jellyfish. Fortunately, Marcus had his long lens to take a good photo of it.
Here's my feeble shot of the animal. What a pity we didn't have the equipment to have a closer look at it.
As usual, the field trip is done even before the day has properly begun! In a few hours, I'll be heading back to Base Camp to find out what happened during the rest of Day 6.

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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