Jul 21, 2008

Cyrene walk with URA

6am and at daybreak, an intrepid group from URA join us to explore Cyrene Reef!Thanks to Bert (in orange) who gathered this sporting group for an early morning trip. And of course, thanks to the ever valiant Melvin who takes us there and back in more or less one piece, but doesn't seem to own a shirt.
Another successful landing!

While the Star Trackers, Naked Hermit Crabs and Dr Tan Koh Siang and Lim Swee Cheng from TMSI head off to do their work, YC and I bring our guests to explore Cyrene.We get straight down to checking out this glorious shore. Here's YC sharing about the amazing marine life found on the reef. Reminiscent of Chek Jawa, there are sand dollars, peacock anemones, carpet anemones and their shrimps, fan shells, fan worms and other creatures of the seagrass and sandy shores. We visited the Nemo anemone but the fish was in hiding and didn't show a fin today. Alas.Sea urchins, synaptid sea cucumbers and sea stars are abundant here too. The Common sea star (Archaster typicus) above is particularly prolific on Cyrene, which unfortunately, no longer is the case at Chek Jawa. So we must appreciate even our common marine life as they may be lost before we know it.Cyrene we realise now from the work by the Star Trackers, is an important shore for baby Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus). And there were lots and lots of these babies!

Today we are very lucky to have some experienced Naked Hermit Crabs with us to find special stuff. And July has found another star!He walked all the way back from the end of Cyrene to show it to the group.It's a small Cushion star (Culcita novaeguineae), which doesn't quite look like a star until you look at the underside which has five parts. That was a really special treat! Thanks July!

On the way from the seagrass area to the reefs, we came across a gigantic nudibranch!It is some sort of Dendrodoris, possibly Dendrodoris tuberculosa, see entry on Dr Bill Rudman's Sea slug forum.It has a distinctive underside with spots. I've only seen something like it once before, at Pulau Semakau. What a great find!We quickly and carefully waded out to the reefs to catch a glimpse of the corals there before the tide turned. Fortunately, we didn't encounter Mr Stonefish.The reefs has lots of corals as well as the usual nudibranchs like Glossodoris atromarginata and the Phylids, and flatworms too! We also came across a few mushroom corals. And all kinds of fishes zoomed by in the water. We also watched a few worm eels, a worm-like fish that burrows. And met Eunice the Worm of Love: the Giant reefworm (Eunice aphroditois) can grow to 1m long and looks like a centipede. Quite scary when you first see it.The reefs at Cyrene also has stupendously large soft corals of all kinds of shapes. Here's a bunch that are bigger than all of us put together!One of the keen eyed ladies spotted this in the water and we wondered for a while what it was until we realised it was a flatfish! And it's the Peacock sole (Pardachirus pavoninus). I've not seen this on the southern shores before. What an excellent find!

The guests are impressed by the clear water and the abundant variety of marine life despite the proximity of major industrial facilities. YC did a really great job guiding, so I got to slack off a lot.We explore more of the reef even as the tide turns.

As we head back, another special find by the rest of the team!It's the marvellous Melibe nudibranch! This predator has an expandable hood that it uses to grab at small (and ostensibly slow moving) prey. This is really a special find and this nudibranch seems to be common only on Cyrene Reef. Here's our first sighting of it on Cyrene in April (after looking for it for nearly four years on all our other shores), and again on other trips to Cyrene in May and again in May. Chay Hoon has a video of it swimming!The Melibe sparks off a paparazi frenzy of shooting, complete with impromptu umbrella to shield from glare.

All too soon, the tide turned and it was time to go home. We began the trip in a mizzle (miserable drizzle) . But thanks to Melvin's presence, it stopped during our trip! And only started up again as we headed home. Melvin is a miracle weather wizard.

But just as we were about to board the boat, Jun found a blob on the sand. July gave a hand at digging it up and lo and behold, it's a sea cucumber that none of us have seen before!Could it be another new record for Cyrene? We'll have to consult the experts and find out more! There's so much to learn about this amazing reef!

But now it's time to go home as the tide is really rushing in!
Cyrene is quickly disappearing under the rising sea with just slivers of it in front of Pulau Bukom in the background.
As the first team heads back, we wave goodbye to the second team left standing on a fast disappearing shore.

I'm looking forward to more exciting finds and another bunch of guests for tomorrow's trip to Cyrene! We also hope our URA friends will come back for another visit!


Anonymous said...

I am from Germany and I love your news blog.

Anonymous said...

I want to go to Cyrene but it looked dangerous! I can't swim!

Anonymous said...

Did you all jump into the water and swim across?

Anonymous said...

What is that Melibe? A piece of fishbone?

Anonymous said...

This place look very exciting but I am scare. I better bring my mama and papa along can I?

Anonymous said...

Cucumber? How come it is not green in color?