Sunday, May 30, 2010

Animals on Changi shore doing well after oil spill

Sunrise, 30 May 2010, Changi Beach, Singapore

After the depressing news first broke that two oil tankers collided, resulting in massive oil leakage off the coast of Changi East, concerned marine volunteers have been investigating the damage to the nearby intertidal shore, while authorities have closed beaches to the public, and frantic clean up efforts have been deployed.

Perhaps most painful to see and hear were reports from volunteers that the slick had hit Ubin's Chek Jawa, a protected area with a beautiful mangrove intertidal, as well as Changi Beach.

I scrounged up what little time I had amid a packed working weekend to see just how badly Changi Beach had been affected -- I made my way to a stretch of Changi Beach that had not been reported in the news yet -- and was relieved to be greeted with a relatively healthy shore. While this stretch of shore may not be representative of Changi Beach considering how long the whole beach really is, it was a real relief to still see all these beautiful animals alive and well, minding their own business. I do hope the oil does not spread to this stretch and any further.

It was early morning low tide, and seemed like just any other quiet morning, save for a heavy smell of petroleum in the air.

Other than that damper, and murkier than usual water, plenty of animals were out to play:

Many thorny sea cucumbers had their tentacles outstretched, feeding.

These pink sand dollars were also abundant.

This nervous moon crab was still feeding even though the sun was up and it was all bright and warm.

A beached sea hare.

Plenty of feisty crabs out and about.

More sea cucumbers.

Peachia anemones were also spotted further up the shore.

A few nervous peacock anemones were also feeding.

A pretty pencil urchin.

A beautiful dragonet.

Migrating brittlestar.

Another hermit crab.

Plenty of clams.

This healthy windowpane shell was sheltering a fierce little swimming crab.

Large sand collar of eggs.

Another sea cucumber that was abundant.

These white urchins were also everywhere.

While the animals encountered were not in their usual abundance, compared to the previous trips made there, they were healthy-looking. There were also no large numbers of animal carcasses either. I'm hopeful for this stretch of shore and I really hope the oil doesn't spread anymore.

Want to do your part in this disaster? Read how you can contribute here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Trump Card

Mum bought herself a lump of steel from some fancy german shop. It now sits in its own customised "soap dish" in her bathroom.

Claiming to possess amazing odour-removal properties, this lump of steel must be used under running water for it to work. Dad also believes in it and claims that it really removes smells from his hands.

Anyway, since none of us can fathom the scientific logic behind its mystical powers (how Mum and Dad are scientists is beyond me at this point), my brother and I have decided that it makes for amusing arguments.

"I saw it at Daiso going for $2 -- you got cheated."
"Why don't you just rub your hands on the kitchen sink?"
"Just put a spoon in every bathroom."
My favourite: "Mum, as long as you're using that lump of steel soap, you have no credibility!"

Monday, January 04, 2010

Shellfish and the mass fish deaths

During the last few days, good low tides have coincided with the new year holidays -- this means lots of people at the beach! Seriously now, going for a cycle along East Coast Park and Changi Beach during the long weekend would have been a feat fraught with peril: peril of colliding with children, picnic mats and stray soccer balls.

This means there's also lots of people out to explore the shore when the low tide exposed much of the intertidal. Most people were out enjoying the expansive shore, sadly, many were there poaching.

This is a huge sack of oysters chiseled off the sea walls of East Coast.

A man collected these huge clams from the shore and was hawking them to passersby along Changi Beach.

Given the recent reports of mass fish deaths and unhealthy waters off Pasir Ris, Changi and Ubin, shellfish like clams and oysters which are filter-feeders are probably the last things you'd want to eat! Some toxins cannot be denatured by cooking, and goodness knows should some poor sod eat those oysters raw :O

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fig snail!

Oh boy! I'm so thrilled to see a live and FAT, juicy-looking fig snail at East Coast this evening at low tide! We sometimes encounter their empty shells on our shores, sometimes inhabited by hermit crabs.

At first I couldn't figure out what it was, just because I'd never seen it alive before. It was about 10 to 12cm long or more. It also kept doing yoga moves. From what I understand, the fig snail is rarely seen alive.

Strangely, it was not burrowing, but wandering stranded on the exposed sand bar, making it easy to spot.

It also refused to retract for me to observe its shell.

The fig snail's siphon is very long, giving the snail a fruit-like shape. (I would have called it the pear snail if it were up to me.) The shell's fig shape is what gives it its name. I'm very pleased to finally see this elusive snail alive.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ticked off!

That is a tick. Yes, the same kind that you pick off your dogs and go "ewww". Except I picked this thing off myself. And it is less than 1mm wide, so on my leg, it looked like a nondescript mole, or even a blackhead.

Here's some sense of perspective for you: this is said tick on a square of toilet paper.

And I had 6 of these. And I never suspected having them, inspite of nagging prickling stings I felt all day. And after all this time, they'd established some kind of adamantine grip on my skin that picking them off was quite a chore -- I had to squeeze them off and pick off some skin in the process.

You see, this is both horrifying and amusing -- yes amusing, because at one point last night, in the forest off Venus Drive, when James and I were squatting under a branch waiting in the stillness of the night for our 30-second exposures to complete, he says something like "Ok, so we're here, keeping still, in the middle of the jungle. I wonder what could get us now." and I went something like "Mosquitoes lor. As long as not ticks la. That would be gross."


This is what we were waiting for though, completely worth the harrowing experience of picking off ticks one day late: a glowing aboreal mushroom.

How pretty!

You know, at least we didn't get a whole leg full like Siyang and co. when they ventured off the trail at Bukit Timah Hill. That's really gross!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Without regret

Vik, a tiny town at the southern tip of Iceland, boasts a famous cluster of cliffs and stacks called Reynisdrangar visible from the expansive black beach, permanently obscured by a fog of sea spray that engulfs the entire coast with an inpenetrable, milky lens. The beach probably knows no such thing as a breeze, its entire length misted with a haze stirred wildly by the turbulent open water that crashes heavily onto the rugged Icelandic coastline, wild as her violent geologic past. Braving the biting wind that makes even opening the eyes a painful struggle, and then in a moment, drawing in deeply, the cold, damp Icelandic air - it leaves you wanting, feeling small, weak, afraid.

Beautiful silence

Jokulsarlon, a glacier lagoon in south Iceland, is stunning in countless ways. Most breathtaking, perhaps, is its deafening silence punctuated with the gentle dripping purrs of the ice melting, while your serene reverence for the almost holy atmosphere can suddenly be shaken by a crack of shattering ice, followed by a satisfying splash of water. The soft rippling stirred by playful seals is only rudely interrupted by the half-hourly amphibious ride that clumsily ferries shivering tourists into the lagoon. And to the relief of the awestruck wanderer strolling by the black sand bank, it quickly disappears behind the larger ice floes. He is grateful for the luxury of crisp, peaceful silence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kind of a sad hermit crab

Almost as sad as Angus. Very clumsily plodding about on Pulau Hantu, this anemone's hermit crab has obviously chosen to overestimate its own prowess. Probably wasn't too wise to hang on to this shell, it's more anemone than shell, really. The good news is that he's probably going to be one of the last choices on any predator's menu.

Actually, it's kind of a sad anemone. Dragging around this pimple of a hermit crab, living out its days dreaming it would taste the sweet ocean that lies beyond this tiny lagoon, if only he'd picked a larger shell to settle on to begin with...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Public Fornication

Locked in a passionate embrace, partaking in the world's favourite pastime, this pair of fornicating horseshoe crabs were a surprising encounter at East Coast. Literally stumbled upon, the arthropod lovers were oblivious to the oohs and aahs of Ivan and I as we cheered them on in high spirits, pleased to have found them on our otherwise quiet morning of hermit crabs, moon snails, acorn worms, moon crabs and marine trash.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Angus the humungous fungus

Never did have any friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Little Sister's Island, revisited.

Wow, it has been 2 years since I last visited Little Sister's Island but I still remember all the funny critters we'd encountered back then. This time, we were there with "anemone people" who were studying frilly anemones -- so in between photographing critters, we looked out for these normally abundant anemones and hollahed when we saw them. We had terrible luck finding them until much later into the trip, and the tide was already threatening to claim our sorry lives by then.

It was a quiet day for marine critters that morning, in the small lagoon, I encountered this lone peacock anemone, looking very forlorn.

In the lagoons, fishies were everywhere! While ambushing a very shy reef crab, I spied this pretty pinkish scorpion fish pretending to be invisible.

This filefish lolled past as Kok Sheng called me to join him outside the lagoon.

And I encountered a number of these mystery fish:

The team trotted up to the famous giant clam that resides in one of the lagoons and had a nice time examining it before Mei Lin set up her transect.

Over at the reef near the seawall, there were many beautiful finds. Ivan bothered to double back and hunt for this featherstar just so I could take a look at it. It's gorgeous.

I encountered another feather star nearby.

It soon turned out that this stretch of shore is feather star central! Kok Sheng and Geraldine brave the very scary reef edge to eyeball the many red feather stars that gathered there, treacherously dangling off the side of the deep drop, where we all know the deadly undercurrents of Sister's islands have claimed lives.

There were also a number of black sea cucumbers.

The shore was teeming with octopussies!

Sadly, the only nudibranch we encountered was this polkadotted Jorunna nudibranch that Kok Sheng found. We all quietly complained that we needed Chay Hoon with us.

Kok Sheng found this huge arabian cowrie! My first time seeing it in real life. What a kick I got from observing it.

Over on the reef, I spotted a number of these wandering cowries too.

Stepping with much caution, negotiating the coral rubble of the reef and the edge of the lagoon, I nearly had a heart attack thinking of all the recent encounters with stinging animals on the shore that the other beach fleas had! Fortunately, it was an accident-free trip. And in between appreciating all the pretty things on the reef, we were treated to a gorgeous sunrise over Big Sister's Island. :)