03 August 2015

Terumbu Hantu in the rain

This morning, we surveyed Terumbu Hantu mainly to check for damage caused by the grounding of MV Nautica in Nov 2014.
Thanks to the four brave hearts who joined in the survey despite the rain!

This is a photo of the MV Nautica a large live-aboard dive boat which was seen high and dry on the living reefs of Terumbu Hantu on 9 Nov 2014.
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.
In Jan 2015 we tried to check for damage to Terumbu Hantu. We could see a large trench amidst the sargassum where the MV Nautica was seen in Nov 2014. But there was a  massive growth of sargassum on the entire reef, so it was hard to tell if there was any serious damage.
The area as seen in Jan 2015.
Today, the Sargassum had died back and it was easier to check for large holes which are bare of living corals and other reef life. Such holes are likely to be caused by boat strikes such as the MV Nautica groudning. This was the first hole I came across. It was not very deep, but there were no living corals in it.
The second hole I saw was deeper, had a bare sandy bottom and no living corals.
The third hole was larger and deeper. Also bare sandy bottom and no living corals.
A fourth smaller but deep hole, also bare sandy bottom and no living corals.
Here's a video clip of the area, with two of the large holes I saw.
Boat strike at Terumbu Hantu

Despite the rain, we managed to spot some interesting marine life. Such as this pretty cushion star.
Cushion star (Culcita novaeguineae)
Among the other interesting creatures I saw was a little Reef octopus. The octopus could see me better than I could see it! I had trouble seeing the screen underwater and I got too close. In a flash of ink, it disappeared.
Reef octopus
How delightful to come across clown anemonefishes in a Giant carpet anemone! It's easier to take videos than photos when surveying a reef in the pouring rain. I saw many Giant carpet anemones, and none were bleaching.
False clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion ocellaris) in Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea)
The shore is dotted with all kinds of colourful reef life such as corals, zoanthids, sponges.
We also take this opportunity to check for coral bleaching. What is coral bleaching and why this is of concern on the Bleach Watch Singapore blog. Fortunately, the latest Bleaching Alert Areas from the NOAA website shows that Singapore now falls outside the 'Watch' status. Let's hope our corals have passed the danger period for the year.

Ian is astounded by the large and numerous large colonies of leathery soft corals on the reef! I saw several different varieties and all of them seemed alright. Although some had suspiciously large holes in them. I only saw one Asparagus flowery soft coral and it was quite pale.
As usual, many of the corals were Favid corals and most of them were alright. I saw several Anemone corals and they all seemed alright.
I was alarmed to see many of the large Boulder pore corals had bleaching or bluish/greyish portions at the top.
Most of the Flowery disk corals I saw, small and large had bleaching portions. The other kinds of Disk corals I saw were alright.
I saw several Crinkled sandpaper corals that were alright. There was a large cluster of Galaxy corals that seemed alright. I didn't come across any Cauliflower corals.
I saw a few Brain corals and they all seemed alright.
Although the reef is tiny and it was hard to survey in the rain, I managed to see some interesting and rare corals. I saw two colonies of the rarely seen Cabbage coral. Sadly, one was bleaching and another wasn't looking too healthy.
I came across these two Anchor corals. One seemed rather pale, the other was alright.
I saw several Circular mushroom corals and only one was partially bleaching. I also saw many large Mole mushroom corals and they were all alright.
I saw several Lettuce corals and one Moon coral. I also saw one Acropora coral. All of them were alright.
There were some clumps of Tape seagrass here and there. Cropped to various lengths from very short to quite long (30cm).
Today, as we approached the mainland, only clean sea water, hurray! Hopefully, this means there has been improved water quality control in the mainland. Bravo!
In the past, after a heavy downpour like today's, there would be a 'flood' of brown water in this area.
Brown water seen in Dec 2011 as we approach the mainland.
At Marine Keppel Bay, the corals growing naturally on the pontoon are not bleaching.
Although it was a wet and cold trip, we're glad to have checked on the health of the beautiful Terumbu Hantu. Here's a last look at the reef.
Living reefs of Terumbu Hantu

Photos by others on this trip


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