Apr 11, 2008

Exploring more of a new shore

Just before sunrise today, Dr Chua Ee Kiam, Joseph Lai, Vivian and I were dropped off at a silty soft flat for our first look at this rarely visited shore.
The rest did a better job of getting to shore. I had to do it on my knees as I kept sinking. I blame the heavy equipment.

As the tide was still a little high, we checked out the giant boulders, which had equally enormous oysters with garlands of Green mussels.
All surfaces bristled with Green mussels (at their preferred tide height).
Among the mussels, the colourful egg cases of Drills. Each egg case contains several eggs and when the eggs hatch, the case turns from yellow to purple. And trundling among the mussels, an ENORMOUS Onch! Everytime I see this slug I remember and miss Wai.

At some parts of the shore, every hard surface was encrusted with all kinds of colourful animals.
Included pieces of trash like this one.

Among them were small clumps of colourful sponges, which are commonly seen on our Northern rocky shores.
Sponges are animals, although they are sometimes mistaken for plants. They can take on a wide variety of shapes from branching to encusting.
And have a bewildering variety of colours and textures.
I think these smooth colourful animals are sponges, but they could be something else entirely.

Other encrusting animals include ascidians, which are colonial. Each blob is actually a group of tiny animals living together.
They too are colourful.

And in deeper water, attached to a rock, was this beautiful pink Flowery soft coral.
The soft silty shallow bay was completely devoid of seagrasses of any kind. There were also almost no seaweeds, except for a few clumps here and there.

Nevertheless, there were quite a few Peacock anemones.
These animals are NOT sea anemones. They have a long body column topped with tentacles of two different lengths; an outer ring of long tentacles, and an inner ring of short tentacles. These animals also create a tube to live in, and are thus sometimes also called tube anemones.

There were also lots of little carpet anemones in various colours, none of them were bigger than 6cm.

The weather had been building up for awhile. As usual, we kept on working until the last possible moment. Then the heavens opened up and we were totally drenched. Lightning stuck all around us, including one very close by. Dr Chua stays low to avoid getting zapped.
But Joe had a reassuring point to make. If you see the flash, he explains, it is quite clear that you will survive since it didn't hit you. Still, it didn't stop Dr Chua and me from jumping every time there was a flash nearby.

Although the shore was quite poor, it had a surprising number of Crown sea stars (Asterina coronata). Within a small area of the rubble, we saw at least 6 of these tiny sea stars.
Some were near sponges, others near Drill egg capsules. Do they eat these animals?
And I saw a bright orange one too! Wow!
Joe and Vivian also saw one Common sea star.

The shore is more notable for what is missing than what is there. Some portions of the shore was covered with soft clay, and on one stretch of shore, there were lots of timber washed ashore. Perhaps this shore is not as rich as it might have been because of the industrial areas just across from it?
On the way back to the boat, Vivian spots a chunk of worm.
Worms have been known to regenerate lost body parts. Indeed, our shores can recover if we mitigate the causes of their decline.

In the meanwhile, this shore-that-might-have-been is a reminder for us to appreciate and treasure those shores that ARE still wonderful.

The gentlemen take a last look at the shore as we headed back for a good cleanup.
At base camp, while waiting for our transport back, Joe discovers a rare sea shore plant! Wow! Read more about this and another spectacular find on Joe's flying fish friends blog.
Soon, all washed up, filled with hot coffee and too many pastries, we headed back home!
Thank you to all the kind and friendly people who made the trip possible: Vivian, Tahir, Ibrahim, Jeffrey and Chee Kong. We look forward to more explorations!

1 comment:

Joe Lai said...

Thanks, Ria, for the memories! We had two amphibuous landings in as many days - first to the reef patch of Cyrene and then to the muddy shore of Ubin; both starting off in what is supposed to be dreamland-time. Ha ha! But it's the Life! And we are living and enjoying it every moment together, aren't we? : ) Outward boundedness in our blood? This is the nice warm thought running through my mind as the boat left OBS and i want you to know that. May we sail evermore... to more places... together... in an unsinkable friendship... : )