Sunday, July 25, 2010

Having a hell of a time at Hantu

We are back at Hantu to take a look at the current situation of the bleaching that has been around for the past couple of months.

Across Pulau Hantu is an island, Pulau Bukom where there are lots of petrochemical installations that are well lit at night.

Today, I had a first look at the western lagoon to see for myself what kind of marine life it harbours. The first sight that greeted me were the numerous Common sea stars (Archaster typicus).

Pulau Hantu literally means Ghost Island. How apt it is to have the first sighting of the Hell's Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.) in this lagoon. It is named as such because of its nasty stings!

Despite James trying to give sadistic suggestions to try and touch it, I simply refuse to listen! Haha. I had a good look at how 3 fishes got stung when I was looking at this devious anemone.

Here's the second fish that got stung. The third one was quite big but I didn't got it photographed. Instead, I took a video which I may share on another post next time.

Very soon, the anemone started snacking on its catches and the tentacles are all gathered near its mouth, with its bulbous stomach showing.

After about 15 minutes, I was surprised that the anemone is back to its relaxed position! Must have already ingested those fishes and now feeling full and fulfilled. Haha. The poor fishes must be having a hell of a time in there!

Back to our mission on looking for bleaching at the usual areas, we saw both bleached and unbleached boulder Favid hard corals (Family Faviidae) just like the other time.

Though I came across some bleached Circular mushroom corals, most of them I saw today were unbleached.

Like these three of them.

And this very large one!

My favourite of all will be this pair of mushroom corals with different colours.

Given that the weather has been quite cool these days, the drop in temperature probably may help a bit towards the recovery of these corals?

Other hard corals such as this Anemone coral (Goniopora sp.) are also looking normal. If you notice, there are some small Acoel flatworms on the polyps.

Soft coral wise, similar to previous trip last month, there are some bleaching going on for the Leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae).

I had a look again at this patch of several colonies of the soft corals and it seems to me that it is slightly more brown than before? Compare this photo with the one I took last month.

It was heartening to see healthy corallimorphs like these bright green Frilled corallimorphs.

As for the anemones, the Pizza anemones (Cryptodendrum adhaesivum) remain one of the species that suffered quite badly.

Ria and I agreed that all the Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) we came across today were looking healthy with no bleaching. She noticed a bleached anemone last month had already recovered. :)

The Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica) in the lagoon look as gorgeous as before.

And it is a relief that the Burrowing Giant Clam (Tridacna crocea) is still alright.

What's missing at Hantu these days will be the Feather stars (Order Comatulida) which used to be so so many on the reefs. At least Chay Hoon managed to find one today.

Today's not really a day with lots of flatworms and nudibranchs. However, I still came across one Black-margined nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata).

Just before we were about to leave, Chay Hoon found this Black prickly nudibranch (Atagema intecta)! It's my second time seeing it, the first being at Sekudu.

And I was thrilled to also find this charismatic Longhorn cowfish (Lactoria cornuta)! Also my second time seeing it, the first was at Tanah Merah.

The cowfish has a pair of horns on the head with a downward pointing tubular mouth. It feeds on tiny animals hidden in the sand. The fish uncovers these "titbits" by blowing away the sand with its downturned tubular mouth.

Soon, we had a nice sunrise over Bukom which signals the end of the trip as the tide is returning back.

The "hell-of-a-time" was not over for this stranded boat and the boatman as it probably got stuck at the shallow channel between Pulau Hantu Besar and Pulau Hantu Kechil as the tide went out. :P

More photos of the day' here:

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