Saturday, December 27, 2008

First time at Sultan Shoal

Somehow, lighthouses exude a special charm because of their architecture and also due to the fact that they provide direction by the shining of light.

Today, I had the privilege to visit Sultan Shoal, a lighthouse (built in 1895) located in the Western Anchorage of Singapore. The lighthouse tower is painted white while the keeper's house roof is red and is of a mixture of Oriental and Victorian design according to Wikipedia.

The trip was possible thanks to Luan Keng who organized it for the RMBR guides. :-)

We departed from West Coast Pier and travelled along the sides of Jurong Island towards our destination.

It was first time getting so close to this gigantic island and indeed almost the whole place was filled with industrial installations.

Looking southwards is a more pleasant sight of Pulau Salu and at the background is Pulau Sudong. Both are live firing area restricted islands though. Salu looks a bit like Jong with the Pau or burger shape.

After a fourty minutes ride, we finally approached the elusive lighthouse which is now sitting in the water body between Jurong Island and the reclaimed land of Tuas. Indeed, there was marine construction work going on.

Upon reaching Sultan Shoal, we landed on a floating pontoon that has a very very steep stairway up. The waters look great, especially with the sunny weather.

Since none of us have been to Sultan Shoal, except for Prof Peter Ng (came 20 years ago before) who was also with us, we have nothing to expect. In fact, I was sceptical if there is good marine life in this seemingly lifeless man made lagoon which is actually the only saltwater swimming pool in Singapore, during high tide of course.

Against the walls of this concrete lagoon were many different types of nerites of all sorts of pattern.

I like this pattern the most, with orange stripes. Have not seen this type of nerite before.

There are several rocks by the edge of the concrete where water is allowed to enter. Rocks are substrates for living creatures like this onchidium.

We were also thrilled by many of these mudskippers.

There is more life than you can imagine or see because you need to overturn the rocks to see more of the marine creatures. Beneath rocks are great hideouts for these animals because it keeps them wet and protected from the scorching sun and dessication.

An example of life under the rocks will be this Wandering cowrie (Cypraea errones).

There was also a very cute juvenile sponge crab (Family Dromiidae) carrying a brown sponge on top of its carapace. If you notice the surrounding, there are many black sea cucumbers.

A closer look of one of the many tiny black sea cucumber reveals a possibility that this is Afrocucumis africana.

While checking out on more rocks for life, I saw this larger sea cucumber that is very long. It doesn't look familiar to me and it seems to be rarely spotted in Singapore.

A closer look reveals their beautiful feeding tentacles and spiky body of the sea cucumber. This is highly likely to be a Holothurian sea cucumber. Could it be Holothuria hilla?

July spotted this pretty pinkish flatworm which is name as beige flatworm at Wild Facts website. Read to find out more.

The team also found this weird worm looking creature which I have no idea what it is!

The lagoon is rich with fiddler crabs which run away from us quickly.

The Orange fiddler crab (Uca vocans) is very common, just like other shores.

However, I get to see for the first time bluish fiddler crabs. They are Uca tetragonon and are important marker species for healthy reefs. Here we have a male (with large extended claw) ans a female of this pretty fiddler crab.

The male fiddler crab with the larger claw to attract female attention. I love the electric blue coloration on its shell.

It was a surprise that the gang found a featherstar within the lagoon! Wow.

Using my new underwater camera, I submerged my camera to take a closeup of this featherstar.

This tiny weeny red creature was also sighted. Can you imagine it is about only 2-3mm big. This is a pseudoscorpion. Read the wikipedia page for more details on this intriuging creature.

There were pretty shrimps in the lagoon too like this one...

and another one which is more orange in pattern coloration.

We could not resist the rocky part beyond the breakwater so we climbed down to take a good look.

Indeed, there are corals of different sorts: hard and soft in different species. The tide today wasn't so low so we didn't get to see all the deeper corals exposed.

This faviid coral is one of the many hard corals that we can find.

There are also many tabletop corals (Acropora sp.) that are nearer to the lower water mark.

I also found this pair of mushroom corals at the rock crevices.

Thats not all, it was a great sight to see many juvenile mushroom corals at another part of the shore.

The zoanthids is something that many mistaken for coral. Their mats are also found at the edge of Sultan Shoal.

While searching for more interesting creatures, I found something special. Yes, I finally get to see a living Arabian cowrie (Cypraea arabica) for the first time. It was huge and very pretty!

The Arabian cowrie is listed as 'Vulnerable' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore, due to habitat loss and overcollection.

On the rocks are also these snails that are also alive.

Ron turned a few rocks and we saw a pair of brittlestars.

Remember to turn back the rocks to it's original side and position because the animals will die if left exposed to the environment.

How about anemones? Yes, there are many anemones including this stunning magnificient carpet anemone (Heteractis magnifica).

I found another pair of adult sized carpet anemones and have not much idea what species it is given that it is rather submerged with the crashing waves.

I took the camera to a dip underwater to take the photographs of this pretty pinkish carpet anemone.

This anemone has characteristic bumps on its underside. Could they be Stichodactyla gigantea or Stichodactyla mertensii? Dr Daphne Fautin did said that S. mertensii tends to settle in deeper water among living corals, and holds its oral disk completely flat against the surface. Hmm... or could be it even be a Heteractis magnifica? This is confusing...haha. Hopefully some expert can help me out since colour and patterns are not a reliable way to distinguish the species as these vary even within species.

All too soon, the two hours of short low tide was over. We definitely did not forget taking photographs with the charming lighthouse before we call it a day.

Tide was not very low so we could not go all the way out. Ron saw a bright red featherstar which was deeper in the waters. Therefore, I believe there are more interesting critters down there.

What a great day we had exploring a new area for the first time! I hope to be able to return to Sultan Shoal to explore the deeper parts of the rocky area where there are many more corals and reef associates.


Ivan said...

Wonderful sightings! Uca tetragonon is such a pretty crab.

Might that strange worm be a nemertean (ribbon worm) of some sort? Looks like it's got a proboscis.

Unknown said...

The blue fiddler crab is really a beauty! Was recorded before at Labrador Park. Hopefully these crabs are still there. Wonder how is Labrador Park now.

Unknown said...

hey bro, nice place u got there. im interested to go there. how do i go about it? pls contact me @ 90905123. idafi's my name.

Unknown said...

Hi Idafi, you will need a permit from MPA to go there. Understand you can book the PSA chalets on the island too. You can write to MPA or PSA for more info. As for the details, you have to find out yourself.

Unknown said...

I used to go there when going to stay at the chalet as my uncle worked for PSA. I remember so much marine life there and the great fishing we did.
The entrance to the lagoon had lots of rocks and it was easy to catch rock groupers there, though the hooks often got caught in the rocks.
I still remember the schools of barracuda that would swim by during high tide and one night during high tide, the lagoon was filled with this giant swarm of tiny jelly like thing about 4cm long that was glowing and iridescent. I never knew what it was called.
Low tides were the best times for us to explore the lagoon. It was a really memorable Childhood there. Good times.

Unknown said...

Hi Diane, thanks for sharing! :)

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