Thursday, December 13, 2012

Highlights of trips with Northern Expedition 2012

This is a blog post on some of the highlights of trips made in October that is long overdue. I joined some of the trips with the Northern Expedition at the Mega Marine Survey and we surveyed shores along the Straits of Johor.

My dream of visiting the Western shores of Pulau Ubin was fulfilled as I tagged along the team surveying Tanjong Tajam on the first day. The last time I visited this part of Ubin was as a student as part of the OBS experience. The rock formation at Tajam remains as majestic as ever.

Similar to other stretches of the shores of northern Ubin, the entire perimeter has been fenced up and some construction works were being carried out.

With the small boat, we landed amphibuously on the shore of Tajam that is not fenced.

The rocky shores of Tajam is filled with plenty of Green mussels (Perna viridis)! This reminds me of Punggol shore.

Among the "sea" of green mussels, there are some Black sea urchins (Temnopleurus toreumaticus).

Flipping rocks does reward us with some surprises such as finding this Rock star (Asterina coronata).

I even saw a Burgundy sea anemone (Bunodosoma goanense) that so far we've only seen at Punggol.

With some time left during the low tide, the team decided to skirt along the northwestern shore of Ubin to look for locations to document marine life. We passed by this flight of stairs which I vividly remember sitting on during one of our OBS night walks.

Here's a rare look at the stretch of shore along the northwest of Ubin. I was badly affected by motion sickness that I vomitted a few times on this trip. :(

We landed on one of the stretches but I was too ill to take photos or do anything. It took me a long while after the end of the trip to recover.

Thankfully, I recovered just in time for the trip on the next day to survey Tuas, a shore right at the other end of Singapore.

Just before descending to the shore from the entrance, someone exclaimed that there are otters! Wow what a treat!! :) Think this is our first sighting of otters at Tuas.

Definitely not an otter, this is Haruka who is a Japanese scientist studying sea fans snorkeling to check out the shore and look out for her beautiful gorgonians.

Another group of us started seining for fish and other marine life on this part of the rocky shore nearer to the beacon.

This tiny patch of rocky shore at the foot of the Merawang Beacon is teeming with life!

Not commonly seen on shores along the Johor Straits, there are many colonies of hard corals such as this Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.).

There were also small colonies of Flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae).

What attracts to me most in Tuas would be the Sea fans (Order Gorgonacea). It is probably one of the few remaining spots in Singapore where one can find a huge underwater garden of so many of them.

I don't think I have ever seen the huge Cake sea stars (Anthenea aspera) on the shores of Tuas but I was rewarded with not only one sighting of this pretty sea star! 

Soon, I found the second...

And then the third! :)

Here's a glimpse of the dense and colourful marine life at Tuas with ascidians, sponges and sea cucumbers.

Not commonly sighted on our shores along Johor Straits except for reefy areas such as Pulau Sekudu, it was unexpected to find this Long black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota).

I have not seen the Glass anemone (Doflenia sp.) for some time and this is quite a special individual with brown tentacles.

Can you spot the tiny crab in this pretty Slender sea pen (Virgularia sp.)?

Here's a photo of the Tuas team led by Helen at the end of our survey!

On my third trip, we visited one of our most favourite shore on Changi.

Seining sure brings up many pelagic and interesting marine life. This is Ivan carefully removing the animals from the net.

One of the special finds would be this Reticulated moon crab (Matuta planipes). This pretty crab has complicated designs on its shell, and colourful markings on its limbs.

We also saw a Estuarine seahorse (Hippocampus kuda)!

There was also the juvenile version of the Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera)

For the first time, I saw the Mitre snails (Family Mitridae) which was sighting once before on this shore. They were laying egg capsules!

Here's a closer look at this special snail. This bullet-shaped snail is carnivorous and feeds on worms. They may also scavenge.

The top find of the trip must be this mama Masked burrowing crab (Family Corystidae) found by Chay Hoon! As it burrows very quickly into the substrate, these crabs are rarely seen.

More photos of the trips here:
Western Ubin:

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