The Blue Tempeh
Sunday, April 10, 2005
  Free XXX Photos: Corals in action!
WOOOH....It was a hot and steamy week at Raffles Lighthouse 26th March to 3rd April. It was GETTING HOT as Debby from the Hantu Bloggers puts it.

Terrific terrific teerrriiiifffiiiiccc fannntaasstiiccc week of diving when the corals put on a live show and had an orgy of a good time out there on the reefs of Raffles Lighthouse. With a STUNNING 6 M VIS!

In this campout, a group of people from NUS, NUS Marine Biology Lab, NParks and the Hantu Bloggers came out to witness the miracle, almost sacred for those of us who so love the marine environment, of coral spawning.

Dr. James Guest a.ka. Dr. Coral Sex from the Marine Bio Lab set up some transects days ahead and, roughly after sunset, we dived in and swam along these transects, recording and documenting any corals that was spawning.


JAMES! Spiffy shot with Veron's corals of the world book in hand...



GORGEOUS SUNSETS! Ahhhh....doesn't it just make you feel so GLAD you're alive!


It started out slow. The first few nights there were none but a couple of early spawners. One, two...bits of egg bundles floating here, there...nothing much. Not exactly what you'd expect after seeing the BLUE PLANET video on coral spawning about 10 times.


The first coral I saw spawning on the 28th night - Montipora sp.

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Close up...


Although there wasn't much coral spawning action, that doesn't mean there was NO action at all. Other critters were up and about! IT WAS SO FANTASTIC! It was, as Debby said, diving the Manado house reef! It's seriously NOT what you expect diving in Singapore would be. Especially NIGHT DIVING in Singapore. It was like WAHHHH....NO words can really describe it...AWESOME!

CRABS CRABS everywhere! Porcelain crabs, spider crabs, decorator crabs! SHRIMPS! Gorgonian shrimps, urchin shrimps, anemone shrimps...FISHES! Almost everywhere you shine your torch at, you'll see BIG FISHES! SMALL FISHES! All KINDS of fishes! Seriously unlike what you'd expect from Singapore! Debby & Jeff (NParks) even saw a NURSE SHARK on the night dive I didn't go...ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! Proof, you ask? GO SEE HER BLOG!


A porcelain crab



A little shrimp on a soft coral



Close up of a rather friendly prawn



THIS SMALL CRAB IS SO CUTE! It's stuck bits of soft coral polyps on its back to camouflage itself. Can you spot its red eyes?



Feather star on a sea fan



This three-spot damselfish (Dascyllus trimaculatus is not a very common dude in our waters. Normally associated with anemones and lives alongside anemone fishes. I found this one living with your false clownfish.



An Acropora (staghorn coral) goby. Usually these little devils are so damn HARD to photograph during the day. They're fast little things and hide the the smallest of nooks in the corals. This one was asleep.



Anemones like this one, fluoresce very prettily...



Never seen any sorta cowry like this before! SO PRETTY!!!! ARGH!


EVERYTHING just makes it WORTH it to clamber down the damn breakwater. The kind of breakwaters you see lining Singapore's coasts, making it possible to draw most parts of our shores with a ruler.

It's more like a rock wall, or whatever you call it. It was akin to combining rock climbing and diving...Isn't that just great, an extreme sport you can do just at your door step. I think I've gained more leg power from trying very very hard not to slip, trip and fall. Luckily, noone got injured.

The only major injury I had was from walking out of my house half asleep the morning of the campout. Somehow, I managed to fall along the pavement on my way to grab a cab. I was standing one minute and on the ground the next with a sprained ankle and a bloodied knee.

The funny thing was, there was this primary school kid that was walking towards me. And as I was falling, and even as I had fallen, the expression on his round little face didn't change a bit. I was down on the ground as he walked straight past me, wind in his hair. He didn't even GLANCE AT ME. It was thoroughly amazing. What's even MORE amazing was that I got into a cab with my bloodied knee, cleaned it and gave it some first aid in the cab, and the cab driver didn't say A WORD. What can I say...at least he didn't throw me out...But it's amazing how good Singaporeans are at ignoring things...

Anyway, that's besides the point. I felt like CRAP and all I wanted to do was go home after a night on the island. I didn't manage to finish my work (setting up my RECRUIT RACKS, see previous blog entry) during the day dive and the currents were crap. It didn't help that everyone threatened to hold me down and OPSITE my wound. If you've never felt OPSITE on an open wound before, give me a ring, I'll gladly introduce you to it. After 3 years of OPSITE-ing my wounds during expeditions, I didn't react to it kindly. Not if I have an alternative. I did go home, and treated my bloody pussy wound...with a much less painful, and more effective way.

The next couple of nights, the dives were more action packed! MORE SPAWNING! But that meant that I didn't have time to take photos of the other marine critters out and about!


Acropora sp. spawning.



Looks gross right...So many eggs! Setting and ready to go like a time bomb!



PINK EGGS! See the one being squeezed out?


Last year, we had a campout at Pulau Kusu to observe coral spawning too. And all I saw was these Acroporas (staghorn corals) spawning...But this year, I managed to witness the variety of ways corals spawn! I think spawning Acroporas is analogous with constipation, gross but true. You SEE the eggs, you SEE IT, but it takes SOOO damn LOONNGG for it to get pushed out. But when it IS released, it's WOW! FANTASTIC! Like...Aaaahhh......relief.

These spawning Acanthastria corals:




They remind me of RIPE ZITS being squeezed out. If you've squeezed your pimples before, then you'd know what I'm talking about. If not, use your imagination.


RIPE ZITS.


Then, there's also the spawning Favites corals that actually remind me of little sugar coated candies being dispensed. You know, the NERDS sweets made from the Willy Wonka factory thing...go look for it 7-eleven or sth. I ain't kidding you! Mmmmm.....sweeettsss....


Trail of sweets!






But some of them ALSO look like RIPE ZITS being squeezed. So it depends, really...



FANTASTIC! Burst of egg bundles!


These egg bundles you see are actually packets of sperm AND eggs all mixed into one. Later on, they will separate, get mixed and matched, to become a soup of coral larvae...Ah, the miracles of life!


Spawning Merulina corals look like ripe BLISTERS ready to be POPPED...



POP!


Not much time to take photos of other things doesn't mean NO time at all! I saw a moray eel, 3 octopis (or whatever the plural for octopus is!), flatworms, feather stars aplenty, crabs and many more in addition to whatever I saw the night before!


SO BEAUTIFUL! ELEGANT! It's translucent body is absolutely stunning!



OCTOPUS!!!!



PRETTY PINK CRINOID!!!!!!!! SO PRETTY!!!



...and it was poo-ing...see the green string there...yeah...that its...poo



A pretty green and white arrowhead feather star...SO CUTE!



Another pretty anemone!



This crab was HUGE...looks tasty eh...SLURP


The subsequent couple of days, there were EVEN MORE spawning activity! There were EGG BUNDLES EVERYWHERE! Mushroom corals spawned and the big massive boulder coral spawned too, along with many others! It was intensive work trying to note down all the corals spawning! I didn't manage to in the end, it was just WOW! TOO MANY THINGS GOING ON MAN! There were EGG BUNDLES EVERYWHERE! I said it before and I'll say it again, EGG BUNDLES EVERYWHERE! It was AMAZING! WAS JUST LIKE THE BLUE PLANET VIDEO! I felt like crying underwater...I think my mask got foggy for a short while...it was such a breathtaking moment just to see all that coral spawning and egg bundles in the water...Sigh, WOW, even with my bloody pussy knee, I wouldn't have traded that dive for anything!


Spawning Platygyra sp.



Egg bundles of Platygyra sp. ready to go!



And egg bundle of Goniastrea sp.



Spawning Galaxea sp.



This white bundle is actually a bundle of sperm and sterile eggs...



Galaxea corals have "male" and "female" corals, and the "male" corals release sperm bundles along with sterile eggs high in fat to help these bundle float.



Spawning Echinopora sp.



A closer look...



An Echinophyllia/Oxypora sp. spawning...TINY TINY STRING OF EGGS!


FANTASTIC NIGHT! That was the night I also saw an eel blenny:



My second ever sighting of an eel blenny...



AND THIS HUMUNGOUS PUFFER FISH JUST SLEEPING THERE! IT WAS HUUGGEE!!! WAAHAHHHAHAHAH!!! SO EXCITING! Not as exciting as the nurse shark, but it can hold its own, dunchathink?


After that, it was quite downhill, the vis started getting not as good; probably due to all that larvae and planulae in the water along with the change in currents...

I didn't see much on April Fool's night...nothing much at all...................................

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EXCEPT FOR A SPAWNING ANEMONE!!!!! WOOOOOHH!! IT WAS SO COOL!

The story goes as such. I was taking photos of a sleeping anemonefish...You know, when else can you get these fishes to stay still for once!


So there I was taking nice photos of the false clownfish...



SNAP SNAP...FLASH FLASH...AND THEN...!!!!!!



...I saw this WHITE CLOUD of something drifting past...I was like...WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?!?!?!!?



THEN I SAW THE ANEMONE MOUTH...And...OOOOHHH MYYY GAAAWWWDDDD.... IT WAS SPAWNING!!!!



So it's not ONLY the corals who's getting hot hot hot, the ANEMONES ARE AT IT TOO!



And...oh...also saw this gigantic flatworm...haha!


EXCITING NIGHT! And it was about to get EVEN MORE EXCITING! At about 6 am, the WIND started to really pick up speed...I was sleeping in a hammock under the coconut trees, so the thought of having one of the coconuts getting loose and falling on me really woke me up. And the thought of a rain storm on its way was also not very appealing. Also, Jeff told me stories of waves crashing above the breakwaters of Raffles Lightouse and washing gear and equipment away, so I was really expecting the worst. The lighthouse keepers were up and about too...they told me the wind will blow the rain past the lighthouse...

THE WIND WAS AMAAAZIINNNGGGLY STRONG... look at what happened to Jame's tent:





Flattened...


In any case, rain or not, falling coconuts don't equal a good night's sleep, so I moved into a tent after Dr. Peter Todd, from the Marine Bio Lab (who was unfortunately stuck on the island with me that dark, cold and stormy day...), secured the tents down.

And guess what, IT RAINED. IT BLOODY RAINED! And the TENTS were not WATERPROOF. IT WAS LEAKING! From seams, from zips...from god knows where! My tent was slowly flooding...I used some of my dirty shirts and rashguards and hammock to act as a barrier and kept on sleeping, inching bit by bit as more water flowed into the tent. I didn't have a sleeping bag, so it was just me and my sarong. Until I was cornered, literally, to the last few inches of the tent, did I move out to seek the bench under the lighthouse in the work area...I wanted to go home right then and there. BRRR....


Look what happened to the table...and notice the coconut trees in the background...



"Scene of terrible destruction," as James would say. James' papers got wet wet wet in his leaky flattened tent. He wasn't around to save it and unfortunately I didn't have the right mind to either...Sigh...


Anyway, COMFORT ARRIVED! In the form of Abby and Zee! They quickly turned the wet dingy day around and we had a GREAT FUN TIME!


Abby making breakfast/lunch which was OH SO GOOD! Eggs and sausages and sardines with onions and celery...she's a regular gourmet maestro in the field.



Danwei doing his UROPS presentation on the island...


After breakfast we went snorkling! And saw so many things! I didn't manage to photo them all though...it's MUCH harder to stalk and photo something when you're so buoyant!

We saw so many gobies and shrimp pairs and ghost shrimps and octopus and small baby damselfishes and blue runners and wrasses and crabs and shrimps!!!!


A pair of anemone shrimps! I drank A LOT of seawater to take these shots!



It looks like it has something growing out of it side...



Abby and Zeehan...classic shot...haha!


And the HIGHLIGHT of my night dive was THIS WHITE ALLIED COWRY! IT WAS SOOO COOOOLLL!!!!!!!! I couldn't get enough of it! MY SECOND EVER ALLIED COWRY!!! My first was at Hantu!


AMAZING!!! I LOVE IT SOOOO MUUUCCH!!!


Diving at Raffles Lighthouse is absolutely wonderful! At 12m, you get WALL DIVING with critters you'd normally find at depths of 30+m elsewhere! It's thoroughly AMAZING!

On the 3rd of April, we were to leave the island...I was both glad and sad. I was glad that I'd get to sleep on my dry bed again, but sad that as I'll be leaving all the great diving and cool marine creatures behind...

But as we were transporting all the tanks and camp stuff to the jetty, Danwei alerted me of a high pitch noise. He cooly told me that he thinks Abby was calling me. AND SHE WAS! SHE SAW THE METER LONG LONE BARRACUDA SWIMMING BY THE JETTY!!! I didn't manage to take a snap of it, as my camera wasn't handy...but it was HUGE AND LOOKED MEAN BUT OH SO MAGNIFACENT AT THE SAME TIME!!!!!! WOW!!!

And we also saw HUGE PARROTFISHES (the water was clear enough for us to see the reef flat area...) and a PAIR OF THE FOXFACE RABBITFISH, Siganus vulpinus, A NEW RECORD FOR SINGAPORE IN A LONG TIME!!!!. It's only been recorded in our fish markets in the earlier part of LAST CENTURY. So it's technically not a NEW new record, according to Kelvin Lim of the RMBR, but now, we have a definite locality record! According to him, these fishes don't usually occur in silty waters...BUT IT WAS THERE AND WE SAW IT! AHAHAHA! NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT!


Going back...


ALL IN ALL, this was an AMAZING CAMPOUT!! The surprises of diving in Singapore. DEFINITELY REWARDING! Good bye Raffles Lighthouse, good bye night dives... hope to see you again next year...Hmmm....Good luck to all the baby corals!





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