May 8, 2008

Mapping out Cyrene Reef

Early this morning, we roused poor Melvin to fetch us out to Cyrene Reef. We are very honoured today to have with us Prof Teh, Dr Raju, Joseph Lai and Andrew Tay. Prof is sitting in the back of the boat so he's not in the photo. And I realised I didn't get any photos of him during this trip...sigh.

While we waited for the boat to make a second trip to fetch the rest of us, we take photos of the glorious sunrise.And missed the ray that jumped out of the water.

Jun saw it! Right here...Prof Teh is the coastal expert of peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, and Dr Raju is a GIS expert. They are both actively involved in Chek Jawa together with Joseph Lai, and have always been there to help us map our odd and obscure reefs.

Dr Raju has brought his snazzy GIS stuff with him to help us get a better idea of Cyrene.Here he is with Siti helping out to better understand this fascinating reef.

He takes readings all over this vast reef.Here he is compared to the container ship... Meanwhile, to get GIS readings to map Cyrene Reef, November sacrifices her feeble knees and gained a few new world record bunions on her toes by literally running around the entire circumference of the reef at super low tide.Poor November. The reef is quite huge.

Prof Teh later tells us the Reef sits on the Jurong Formation, which is a kind of rock with a typical purplish colour. Dr Raju will come back again to do more mapping.

Sijie and Andy meanwhile are testing out a new project to study the Knobbly sea stars that are so abundant on Cyrene Reef.They have marked out the locations of these stars in yellow flags.There sure are a lot of Knobbly sea stars! At least 33 from this photo! In just a small area. Wow! Marcus shares a closer look at those knobs.

Meanwhile, the rest of us run off to check out the Reef according to the excellent plan developed by Kok Sheng. Armed with Kok Sheng's nicely enlarged maps and introduction on the beacons of Cyrene as landmarks, we went in search of the best of this special reef.

I hijacked the lamest section nearest the landing point. Despite which, I only managed to do a small portion with reefs and rubble before the low tide ended.The area has some amazing hard corals including really humungous brain corals (Family Mussidae).
Among the special hard corals I saw was this Hydnophora coral.It has conical corallites and this coral is not commonly encountered on our reefs.Here's another hard coral that I seldom see.I don't know what it is, but it sure is pretty.As well as lots and lots of humungous leathery soft corals!Leathery soft corals look like creatures from another planet. Some look like fried eggs, others like discarded surgical gloves, or strange half-melted pinwheels. They are actually colonial animals made up of countless tiny polyps that live together in a shared leathery tissue.

But this one soft coral that I have not seen anywhere else on our shores.It is probably a leathery coral as it has tiny polyps with branched tentacles that emerge from a common leathery tissue, quite similar to other leathery soft corals.
But very oddly, it has a wiry kind of central 'stem' that holds the branches upright. I've never seen anything like that before!

Some parts of the reef are crowded with a variety of marine life.
There were the usual variety of marine life (nudibranchs, flatworms) and fishes and octopus there.

Among the special encounters was a Melibe!Since Sijie found one on Cyrene with TeamSeagrass a few trips ago, I think most of us have got the 'search image' already. Chay Hoon and Jun found two more as well! She shares photos and a clip of it in action with its expandable hood on her colourful clouds blog

There was also a very VERY long ribbon worm (Phylum Nemertea) which are sometimes seen on our shores. Ribbon worms can be very long. This one was at least 1m long! I couldn't see the beginning or the end of the worm as it was wound among the rubble.Most ribbon worms are predatory, often specialising in a particular prey. To capture its prey, the ribbon worm has a hollow, muscular proboscis. The proboscis can shoot out with explosive force and is prehensile (can be used to grip) and retractable (can be pulled back). The proboscis is usually wound around the prey which is then hauled back toward the worm's mouth.

Alas, among some of the less happy encounters was with a huge fish trap. It was about as tall as me!It had several large butterfly fishes, and a large blue stripped fish as well as a spotted one. I couldn't take a good photo of them as they kept splashing about in panic in the shallow water. I put the cameras aside to cut open the trap and release the fishes. Later on, I learnt that Joseph Lai also found and destroyed another fish trap.

There were lots of herons and egrets feeding on the shore.
Whilst looking at them, I noticed the black smoke emitted from a ship parked at Pulau Bukom refineries in the background.

Some of the others found sea urchins! Several black long-spined sea urchins!Here's a closer look at them...I'm sure some readers will have something to say about the identity of these sea urchins...

We had so much fun we nearly forgot about the tide.Which soon rushed in leaving only slivers of Cyrene Reef above water.

The second shift for the small boat waited anxiously to be picked up as the huge waves crashed around us covering the Reef. A large cruise ship meanwhile is passing by the Reef in the background.Of course, Melvin saves us in time as usual. And we all manage to stumble, roll, collapse into the boat. Thanks to the literal leg up so kindly provided by Sijie. See Marcus' hilarious sequence LOLZCyrene on what happened to us as we tried to board the boat at high water.

The others found LOTS more interesting stuff including Nemo and another Special Star! Read all about it on Kok Sheng's wonderful creations blog, while Vyna shares thoughts about the things that money can't buy following this trip, and November shares the magical wonderland that is Cyrene, and Marcus has more insights in home on the green.

Jun shares her first time visit to Cyrene too!

See the gorgeous map of Cyrene that Dr Raju shared based on the readings he took on this trip.

Looking forward to our second trip to Cyrene again tomorrow!

1 comment:

CH said...

Hee....actually both Jun and I found one Melibe each lah. :o)