Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cyrene Reef - Land of Sea Stars

I had my first step onto Cyrene reef today.
Cyrene is a submerged reef located in an industrial triangle consisting of Pasir Panjang container terminals on the mainland, petrochemical plants on Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom.
Image from WildSingapore
Pasir Panjang Container Terminal
Pulau Bukom
For submerged reef, there is no proper jetty or docking place for boats to stop. Luckily, we just have to transfer to a dinghy from the main boat to get to the reef.

Like yesterday, I got up early for the 06:00 meeting time at Marina at Keppel Bay. I was my first time setting off from a marina. When we set off, the sky was barely lighting up. The morning sky was really nice as we set sail to our destination. There were pretty streaks of light form from the rising sun.
As we set foot on the reef, the sun slowly showed itself.
The objective of this trip was to remove the stakes from Siti's experiment. On Friday, another team had already removed and smashed the structures. It was a quick task removing the heavily corroded stakes and we got more time to check out the reef. Yay!

While walking to the seagrass experiment area, we came across a group of white sea urchins (Salmacis sp.). Ria was wondering if the different coloured spines represent different species of the white sea urchin.
White sea urchin cluster
White sea urchin with different coloured spines
I later found a cute tiny sea urchin.
Tiny sea urchin with pink spines.
We also came across a grey bonnet snail (Phalium glaucum).
Grey bonnet snail (Phalium glaucum)
Looks like someone else had arrived on this reef earlier than us.
Feather visitor
I only managed to cover a section the pasir panjang side of the reef, where the knobbly sea stars are located.
There were many plain frilly anemone (Phymanthus sp.)located on the sand.
Frilly anemone out of water
Frilly anemone in water
And also other kind of anemones.
Unknown anemone
Fan worm
It's my first time seeing a swimming anemone (Boloceroides mcmurrichi). There were many of them around after I saw my first swimming anemone.
Swimming anemone

I also saw a few types of sea cucumber.
Unknown short sea cucumber
Black long sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota)
Garlic bread sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra)
There were crabs of interesting kind, some of which it is my first time seeing it.
Elbow crab (Family Parthenopidae)
Very well decorated Arrow-head spider crab (Menatheius sp.)
There were two puzzling crabs seen.
The first crab can be found in almost very coral rubble bit. They create a hole in the dead coral and its tiny body carries it around. It is amazing how this small crab can mange to move such a large coral.
The tiny crab has a deep shelter to hide when the coral is flipped over.
Tiny crab slowly emerging.
Here's a video of the crab:

Another unknown crab is this one which I found clinging onto a sponge next to a carpet anemone.
It was suspicious to find a difficult to lift piece of sponge next to the anemone. After some tugging, it reveals a crab holding onto the sponge. I have no idea what crab it is. As I tried to coax the crab out of the sand, it went deeper below the carpet anemone, clinging onto something else tightly in the sand. Could it be some kind of sponge crab?
Crab view 1
Crab view 2 (it "threw" the sponge onto the anemone)
Crab view 3
I found one black-margined nudibrach (Glossodoris atromarginata).
Black-margined nudibranch
Chay Hoon found a melibe nudibranch (Melibe viridis) and they seem to be in season now. I couldn't find any though.

I name Cyrene reef the land of sea stars as there are many sea stars on this reef. Large in numbers are the knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) and the common sea star (Archaster typicus).
The large knobbly sea stars were seen in groups and they come in various arm numbers, size and colours.
5 knobbly sea stars here and many more around
4 armed
6 armed knobbly
Underside of a knobbly sea star
Damaged arm will regenerate on its own.

There is almost a pool of common sea star in various positions.
Mating position 1
Exposed mating position
Signs of common sea star burrowing
4 armed
Soon it was time to go as everyone made their way to the drop off point on the sand bar waiting for the dinghy to come and pick us batch by batch.

Cyrene reef is really huge and it will take me a few visits to finish one full round. I must say that Cyrene reef is one of my favourite place to visit now. Looking forward to the predawn trip to Cyrene in July.

For now, school term for semester 2 will begin tomorrow and I will start to get busy with school work. However I will still find time to visit the shores. Stay tune.

Read more about what others saw during this trip:
Ria Tan shares her anemone sightings
Sankar shares about his trip to Cyrene

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Marine "Gardeners" of Chek Jawa

At 5am this morning, I left my house for a morning trip to Chek Jawa.
This is not my usual morning shore trip session.
A small team is heading there for manual work to help Siti with her seagrass experiment.

It is my first time travelling to Chek Jawa before sunrise.
Luckily, prior notice was given and the main gate to Chek Jawa was open when we arrived.
While making our way to the pontoon, the sky was starting to light up.
On our way to the pontoon.
Even when we reached the shore, the light was dull and boring and we thought the sunrise was boring today.
A tyre sits vertically on the far horizon.
The Sun decided to give the team a sunny welcome to the shore.
Wonderful sunrise on Chek Jawa.
With a short briefing and task allocation by Siti, we are off to work.
First, I had to help cut the cable ties from the experimental set up so that another team can remove them for the smashing process.
After finishing my first task, I helped Ria to pick up the smashed bits for tying.
The smash team and me helping to pick up the bits at the back.
(Photo by Ria Tan)
Due to long exposure of the setups in the sea, the every structure was heavily covered with barnacles, eggs of drill snail and many other marine animals. We had to be careful of flying barnacles and shells in the smash zone.
With many helpers working hard, we completed the tasks effectively.
All setup smashed and bundled.
(Photo by Ria Tan)
The last task was to harvesting seagrass from Siti's experiment sites.
It was a tough done digging up each plot and then sieve it to get the seagrass.
I felt like a marine gardener.
Everyone hard at work.
(Photo by Ria Tan)
Work was half done after clearing all the setup out there. The team had to transport all the stuff up the pontoon and to the collection point.
Pass the bundle
Group shot (Photo by Ria Tan)
Siti will be conducting a Seagrass Workshop on 2 July 2012 (Monday). The workshop is FREE and it is the school holiday in lieu for schooling students. Come for the workshop to learn more about seagrass.

How can we forget about the marine life at Chek Jawa?
Everyone was busy working and did not have the time to take photos.
Luckily I managed to take a few shot while making my way to the work site and I only have 2 photos.
Tube anemone
Plain sand star (Astropecten sp.)
At the hut outside Chek Jawa, mama wild boar was laying quietly on the edge of the forested area having a nap with her piglets.
Mama wild boar
In a nearby tree an older piglet lays there, not even interested of our presence as it continues with its sleep.
Older piglet
As our van approaches, the wild boars got up thinking there is food.
The image below looks like the wild boars are sending the team off.
It was a morning of hard work and the team rewards ourselves with the tasty Changi Village nasi lemak back on mainland at Airfield coffeeshop.

More work tomorrow as I visit a submerged reef to help Siti.

Ria also blogged about today's hard work and the interesting transportation method.


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