May 10, 2008

Pulau Semakau (10 May 08)

TeamSeagrass is out in full force for an early morning departure to Pulau Semakau with a team of nearly 30 people!

Among them were three first timers. Here is Chay Hoon introducing the process to them. Sijie and Kok Sheng also help to take them under their wing.

Alas, as we approached Pulau Semakau, it started to drizzle, then to rain, then to pour. Upon arrival, we huddled in the NEA lobby for a briefing session.

As the wet weather lightened, Shufen and Siti in bright yellow and orange happily led the team out to the monitoring site.
Pulau Semakau is the location of our only landfill where all the rubbish produced in Singapore is deposited. It was created by enclosing a portion of the sea with a very long sea wall which includes part of Pulau Semakau.

Today we were very early, so the bus that usually takes us to the start point wasn't operating yet. So we had to hike the 1.2 kilometres to the start point.Siti is obviously very proud of the intrepid team who gamely set off in the drizzle.

It often surprises people to learn that next to our landfill are marvellous living reefs, mangroves and seagrass meadows!

When we arrived on the natural shores of Pulau Semakau, the rain had stopped.Here's the team doing Site 3 gamely splashing through the receeding tide, on shores teeming with sponges.I joined the team doing Site 1 today, the furthest site. Sigh. Another hike of another 1km or so.

Here they are setting up. In the background is Pulau Bukom, the location of some of our petrochemical refineries. The seagrass meadows of Semakau are vast, spanning kilometres!

All too soon, the monitoring is completed.Here is Kok Sheng and Yok taking their last readings.

The rain helped keep the weather cool, so the long walk and work on the shores was quite pleasant.

With some time before the tide came in, we headed off to explore some of the shore.

Kok Sheng and I headed for the rocks near Site 1 to look for the cryptic sea stars that hide there. And almost immediately, we find lots!Here is the rather polygonal sea star on the right corner. It is rather well camouflaged and has very short arms. The large flesh coloured blob next to it is a flatworm.

The sea star doesn't really look like a sea star until you look at the underside, when the 5 part symmetry of the animal becomes obvious. There are grooves under each of the five arms and the mouth is in the centre.More about this rarely seen sea star on Kok Sheng's wonderful creations blog.

The seagrass meadows are homes to all kinds of animals. Many are well camouflaged, such as this scorpion fish (Family Scorpaenidae).And tiny octopuses are sometimes also seen, especially near coral rubble.More about the animals seen on Semakau today, including possibly a new sea anemone sighting and a monitor lizard soaking in the water! on Sijie's nature scouter blog. And lots of corals and sting ray and other sightings on Kok Sheng's wonderful creations blog.

Robin and I, soon joined by Kok Sheng and Yok, explored the northern most tip of Semakau. From here, we could see the NEA transfer station where we first landed this morning, and the little lump of an island in the distance, Pulau Jong. This area is very nice with sandy bottomed coral rubble very clear of sediments, and lots of seagrasses too! Hopefully we can explore this area more thoroughly the next time we visit.

Also with us today was a team from NParks checking out the mangroves. And they found lots of special mangrove trees and plants too!

All too soon it was time to go home. On the boat, we take a photo of the Labrador team comprising the long-suffering Mr Lim, the three Seagrass Angels from RGS, with Shufen and Siti. The three young ladies have 'graduated' from Labrador monitoring and this is their first session with TeamSeagrass. They said they enjoyed the trip! We hope they can continue to join us in our upcoming sessions.

Meanwhile the rest are comparing photos of their many exciting sightings today.We got back famished and proceeded to hijack a large portion of the foodcourt as we replenished.What a great way to end a great day!

Thank you to Jerald for being Field Coordinator and making sure we all got there and back in one piece despite the wet weather. To all those who helped in cleaning and checking the equipment. And of course to everyone who came to do the monitoring. Bravo!

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