Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sentosa really "Blakang Mati"

Its very saddening to receive news on the doomed Sentosa shore. Especially for me, I might not have a chance to visit it again as the NHC trips are scheduled right smack in the middle of my test week.

Looking at the giant Euphyllia sp., the sponges, the critters, it really brings to me the issue of sustainable development. I always had this notion that one day, we'll reach a point of environmental crisis and its already too late for anything to be done.

Our environment is always on the bottom of a priority list and this itself, is like a drug, the more we try to ignore it, the worser it'll come back to us. This year marks a milestone for everyone for it is this year that we finally experience the "Doomsday Effect" that was predicted but tucked under the rug as a piece of nonsense. With rains coming in the dry months, freakish weather and even unpredictable tides, I don't know what more must we see before it strikes each and every one of us that our Earth is ill.

Its a dilemma I know, that our country dreams of earning a little extra pocket money and at the same time, face with nosey volunteers coming up to foil their plans. When will these people understand that there would never be an end to competition, to development, to wealth while places like Sentosa's shore faces the gallows?

Its overdue time for us to take a LONG HARD LOOK at ourselves and think, would you really want Sentosa to forever carry the stigma of being Pulau Blakang Mati?

*"Blakang Mati" means "death at the back" in Malay

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Semakau, a land filled with wonders

It was a blazing morning as the sun revealed itself in a majestic manner, firing up the sky a deep orange red which finally simmered down to a cloudy brown as we passed Pulau Jong to reach Pulau Semakau.

The avid seagrassers were also busy with shooting this wonderful sunrise, a good omen for the day ahead perhaps?

This trip would mark my second time here at Semakau and I'm very very excited to visit the large seagrass meadow and the reef edge there.

After doing the transect, its exploring time again and this time, armed with a new 35mm Macro lens, I went to peer closer at what actually lies in our waters. On the seagrass, there were many sponge-like "growths" which are actually ascidians or more commonly called sea squirts. These cute fellas come in all shapes, sizes and colours and some are even solitary (these here are colonial).

The corals there look healthy too and some of them are just HUGE. I'm still looking out for those pink porites which I think are pink due to a pigment they produce to shield them from the sun's UV rays.

Scattered around the intertidal zone are numerous sponges that may resemble the stony corals seen there except that they are soft. These guys actually get their nutrition from particulate matter in the water column and they do that by sucking in water from small pores called ostia and filtering the water with tiny hairs in their main body. The water is then expelled out from a bigger opening called the oscula. Interesting isn't it!

While treading back to collect my transect tape and bag, I chanced upon this Heliofungia sp. which looks like an anemone. These corals, although the uncanny similarities to anemones, belong to a totally different group of corals as they build a calcium carbonate skeleton whereby the anemone does not.

Other than the animals there, the algaes are also quite interesting if you look at them closer. This purplish, stringy algae was found on the stake marking the transect area. Looks a bit like the "fa cai" that Chinese people eat during the New Year.

Further up after the seagrass meadow, I found quite a few Halimeda sp. which are a special type of algae that incorporate calcium into their tissues. These algaes are crucial for reefs as they provide a substrate for the many organisms to grow on.

There's also this awesome looking one that looks like fingernails

Near my transect site, I spotted this horseshoe crab moult. I didn't know horseshoe crab moults are actually orange in colour as they usually are green. I'm also quite amazed by the seemingly perfect symmetry in the shell.

Helen found this little Batfish amongst some seagrass. This guy was just about palm size and could grow up to bigger than my head when it matures. The adults are usually darker in colour and their fins might also develop streamers.

As noon approaches, the weather started to turn scorching hot! Some of us couldn't take the heat and rested in the shade while waiting for the others to be done with their exploring. Ironically, this parched land would soon be engulfed by the incoming tide.

Besides the watery wonders, there are also nice finds on land too. I noticed that there were many mangrove seedlings growing. Hopefully, when I return in the future, they would have grown into trees.

This strange looking plant actually has hairy fruits!

Who would've thought that the world looks so different close up. Maybe everyone in this world should take a closer look at our Earth, as taking a peek might reveal a whole new story...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Surprises at Changi

Was at Changi beach having a barbeque to celebrate my cousin's birthday and we took a stroll down the beach when I found this intriguing creature. At first I thought it was just some rotting fruit but it started moving and when I peered down, it looked more like a sea hare.

Then an uncle came and told me not to go near it as it was a jellyfish. And as I left, I saw him kicking it back into the sea (felt so bad after that).

Then at night, we went to a stretch of metal railings that was designated as the fishing spot. As the anglers lashed out their lines at the pitch dark waters, lit only with the city lights and the occasional headlamps of landing planes, my cousin told me to take a look below.

To my utter amazement, there were glowing streaks in the water! And I looked on and figured that they were actually luminiscent fishes. How amazing is that?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wild side of Pasir Ris

Blogger seemed to have some problems with my browser these few days so this is a little back dated.

Anyway, it was a lovely morning and I didn't have lessons till the afternoon so I went down to the mangroves at Pasir Ris to check out the wildlife there.

The morning dew of the plants there are just so refreshing!

This canine friend was actually doing its morning workout by running circuits around the whole boardwalk area (no kidding!).

As I approached the bridge near the site where Sijie had his snake hunts, I was quite amazed to not only find one but TWO bicycles washed up onto the concrete structures there. Is it a trend now to dump bicycles into our canals?

Actually the main reason for me to head down to the area is to catch a photo of a really nice bird that would perch on a branch sticking out from the trees. That fella didn't come but I did catch some photos of other birds that we don't normally see on the streets.

And I also ventured to the rocks just before the flat "plateau" (sorry, couldn't find a good description). First thing I found there was one of my favourite creatures, an onch (Onchidium sp.)

I really liked this photo as the bigger crab looks as if it is domineering the smaller one haha.

I didn't go onto the boardwalk due to the time but I'll do an entry on there very soon!
Next up is a strange find at Changi Beach while having a barbeque for my little cousin's birthday

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Saint of the South

It was a very sleepy morning as Gaytri, Muratti, Andy and me arrived at Marina South Pier for the trip to St. John's Island. We were just about to depart when Ria saw James coming in and shouted for him to hurry up and he ran down and boarded the boat just in time.

The morning was spectacular with a pink sunrise coming from behind us. Sisters Islands were in the distance and so as was Sentosa.

Very quickly, the sky turned a pleasant blue which was reflected off the crystal clear waters at SJ.

The shores were littered with corals and rubble with a small patch of seagrass where the sediment was a bit muddy. In the pitch darkness of the early morning and under the guidance of Gaytri's torch, I spotted this conspicuous flatworm Pseudobiceros bedfordi lying on some rocks. As Andy and Muratti was filming and taking pictures, this bugger decided it would take a swim to Muratti's shoes!

Following the flatworm find, Andy spotted a really tiny Copperband butterflyfish Chelmon rostratus swimming in a small pool of water. These guys are often collected from the wild for the aquarium trade and sadly, many hobbyists do not realise that these fishes eat coral tissue and end up "humanely euthanising" them when they start pecking on their precious coral displays.

As we were walking along the shore, Ria suddenly let out a thunderous announcement "Crinoid!!". Everybody went over and there laid a blackish green featherstar on a piece of rock. According to Ria, featherstars are not commonly found on the shores and this one probably got washed up.

We also found a nudibranch Glossodoris atromarginata not far from the featherstar!

One thing I noticed about St. John's is the abundance of large rock anemones compared to the many carpet anemones found at the other sites.

I also managed to find another flatworm which was black and had an orange ring on its "skirt". I really love to see the flatworms swim as it is a truely amazing sight.

This great looking crab was very shy and didn't want to be photographed. I had to stand really really still and tolerate all the sandflies to get this shot of its beautiful shell.

On the rocks I noticed quite an extensive encrustation of coralline algae. This might show that St. John's has the potential to develop as a reef that is abundant with life.

As we were walking back in the direction of the hut where we put our barang barang, James found this green nudibranch which had black spots on its underside.

A few steps ahead, we spotted this goby that was out of water. James used his big hands to scoop the fish into a pool of water nearby.

Ria went to find the fiddler crabs and brought back this remains of a volcano barnacle. Inside the little "mountain" that we normally see are little pores that serve to keep the creature cool. Talk about living in comfort!!

Other than Gaytri who didn't bring along a camera, the rest of us were shooting in DSLR glory. I managed to get this shot of our cameras when we were eating breakfast after the long morning. From the left is Andy's Olympus E1, Muratti's Nikon D70 and James's Canon 20D. Ria has her two very famous cameras that seldom leaves her neck (which explains why they are not in the picture haha).

On our way back, we spotted a pair of mating grasshoppers and Andy was really kind to lend me his 50mm macro lens to get a shot. It was a long morning but all so worth it!