Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

Secret lives and secret worlds hidden in Singapore's most popular coral reef.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Evolution

I recently got into the Life and Evolution subject. I happened to read this book called "Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe" by Simon Conway Morris. Its a pretty nice book in which the author explores and explains why and how evolution takes place. This is a quote in the book that caught my interest.

"Life has no option but to carry on; it must always play the best hand it cna no matter how poor and disastrous the hand might be, and no matter who or what offers the challenge. "

Interesting note I should think. So am I right to say that humans are plundering the natural system in some way, and that some time in the future, organisms that have been hurt would find a way to go around us? Say, sharks would be smart enough to avoid getting hooked up? Or whales would be smart enough to differientate between a boats sonar and their own?

People please leave your comments.... Thanks

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Photobanking

The Coral Reef Alliance(CORAL) would like to receive pictures from you to help local conservation programs, educators and others who need photographs, raise awareness about coral reefs.

Sharing information is extremely useful because an individual can never be everywhere. It's important for shared efforts to be concentrated, collated and made available to those doing research or simply finding more about what's out there.

CORAL is asking for reef-related photographs, including images of reef creatures, reef destruction and human activities near reefs which are of high quality, high resolution, and with subject in focus.

Learn more about why you should share your pictures and how you can do it.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Turtle Eggs and Natives

Was up at Pulau Aur recently - after the nerve-wrecking two hour ride to the resort, I was pretty glad to find out that the weekend crowd had left and all the dive sites there belonged to our group only.

Well, another surprise was in store. Apparently, the night before, the resident turtle at House Reef went up to shore and laid her eggs. Well, right below the coconut tree at our resort. I was pretty glad to hear that after seeing the churned-up sand.

Sad to say, the locals got to hear about it and well, they dug it up for food. It does make me feel pretty sad to see eggs so wonderful go to waste as food. I overheard the owner of the resort saying that he did offer to buy the eggs at the price of RM10 per egg. But apparently, the locals prefer them served up on a plate. Such a waste!

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Uncle Chua

Uncle Chua or Ah Chua is the Hantu Bloggers' preferred bum boat driver. The bum boat he currently operates was purchased in 1983. That's 21 years so far. And it's still in good running condition. Though slower than some more expensive and snazzier-looking vessels, Ah Chua's boat being well maintained means it's more efficient, allowing our dives be cleaner ones, environmentally.


Uncle Ah Chua with his former homeland and present oil refineries in the background.

Ah Chua used to live in a kelong on Pulau Brani. He tells of how days in the kelong were fun filled and carefree. They were also more beautiful. He could watch huge stingrays, nurse sharks and other pleagics swimming beneath and around the kelong in the clear waters that were then. He was evicted from his home and relocated on the mainland around the mid 70s. Life become more boring for Ah Chua, the pace of life quickened and became more stressful. He'll relate how he misses those kampung days.

During his days by the sea, he's witnessed pods of whales and dolphins grazing our Southern Islands. Those sights have become more rare, he says. But in his eyes you can read, he believes they're still out there somewhere.

Ah Chua was relocated yet again, from Jardine Steps to West Coast Pier. Since the shift, business has gotten harder. With fewer people visiting the Southern Islands nowadays, his vessel is seldom in use. He says since the coastal development intensified, the condition of the sea worsened and people were discouraged from spending time out either diving, fishing or at the islands' beaches. He adds that more and more islands are being closed to visitors which adds to the decline of passengers.

A warm, friendly fellow who loves the sea and sharing it, there's really no other other company we'd rather have for a boatman.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Pinna, the fan-shaped bivalve

This shell fish, believed to be a kind of fan shell or Pinna sp., was photographed at about 17m depth off Pulau Hantu's Northern fringe reef.


A young Pinna is transparent and fragile. This specimen had an exposed length of apx. 14cm.

This fan-shaped bivalve shellfish, fastens itself into deep, sandy sea beds, with a third of its sharp pointed end embedded. Here, it finds nourishment and shelter. Like many other organisms it remains anached to the same substratum in the same place, almost stationary, to the end of its life.

Pinna's can, however, use their foot to move slowly and in limited fashion. This means the fan mussel can be found at different depths depending on age. During the larval stage it spends its life swimming freely. Young individuals being found near the surface, while the older individuals live at a depth of approximately 40 metres.

The larvae that emerge from eggs develop in open seas. Following a planktonic phase, the development of a thin calcareous shell makes the larva heavy and eventually it falls to the sea bottom and attaches itself there. At this stage it measures approximately 2 cm and has a transparent and fragile shell, which leaves the animal prey to numerous predators, such as octopus, sea bream, etc. The mortality rate at this stage is therefore high.

Trawling, anchoring, pollution and coastal development, as well as unauthorized fishing by divers, threaten the species. The decline in the seagrass has serious implications for the fan mussel whose highly specific ecology and metabolism renders its reproduction difficult.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Whussup Hantu Bloggers

Hantu Blog Divers From left: Dive Master Joshua, Hang Cheong and James chilling out on the surface of Hantu waters.

In case you've been wondering what we do with all this information - all data gathered from a Hantu Blog dive is passed on to the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research for collation and archiving.

Kelvin Lim, curator of fishes at the Museum has been assisting us in the identification of animals spotted in the reefs. For certain groups, other naturalists may be consulted as well, through the museum's network of marine workers and enthusiasts.

We try to be as sure as possible of the animals identified through the use of field guides, checking and re-checking them against a array of books. If we're ever unsure or are unable to locate a species in our books, a picture with details (sediment/depth/time) is sent to the museam for assistance.

Dive briefing

As it is difficult for scientists to constantly run surveys of the animals in our reefs, diver sightings can be very useful and important in the monitoring of our reefs and their inhabitants.

"I'd be interested to know what fishes you have observed or photographed while diving in Singapore waters. Divers and anglers are often the source of records of species not recorded from Singapore." - Kelvin Lim

At each dive trip, field guides are provided on deck for diver reference. If they are able to confidently ID an animal, it goes into our "sightings" list. The Hantu Blog encourages photography for documentation purposes, and tries to teach divers appropriate diving/observing techniques to spot, photograph or just watch wildlife. Divers are also introduced to Hantu's intertidal, mangrove and birdlife, because the island doesn't just support marine life.

At the end of each dive, divers contribute to a Hantu Blog Log where experiences and thoughts can be shared.

Any diver can lend a hand. On your own, or with us. Be part of the effort.

Thumbs up for Hantu!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

"Unidentified eel" identified



The "unidentified eel" encountered at Hantu on Saturday, May 22 has been identified as a Carpet eel-blenny Congrogadus subducens. It is a dottyback that looks like an eel, with an elongated eel-like body, large lips, tail fin joined to rear ends of dorsal and anal fins. Its head and body is olive-green with pale mottles. It finds comfort in reefs and seagrass areas. In Singapore waters, it has also been sighted in Pulau Seringat, Labrador Park and Chek Jawa. It is benthic, solitary, and carnivorous, hunting prey by snatching them as they swim by.

The individual we met with was about two feet in length, and is a normal size for this fish.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

World Environment Day



Download UNEP's "Fifty key facts about seas and oceans" - pdf.

"Sea snake" ID corrected - Yellow-lipped Krait!



The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) informed the Hantu Blog that the picture of the "sea-snake" sighted at Hantu on Saturday, May 22, 2004, is actually that of a Yellow-lipped Sea Krait or Amphibious Sea-snake Laticauda colubrina.

Kelvin Lim, the Raffles Museum's curator of fishes exclaimed that this was an "awesome!" sighting and has requested for its picture to be displayed at the museum.

This highly venomous snake is common in West Malaysia and Singapore.

Sea kraits inhabit two worlds, the sea and the land. They feed in the sea on eels and have several adaptations for swimming and diving not found in terrestrial snakes. However, they return to land for digestion of food, sloughing their skin, mating and laying eggs. This is the largest species of sea snake, and known to occur in high densities on small tropical islands. - Dr. Zoltan Takacs

Read about their activity patterns, mating system and this National Geographic article about them.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Shark's Fin Soup

I recently posed this question to some friends:

Imagine two bowls of shark's fin soup. Bowl A: from a shark which every part is being used (The meat is stir-fried with ginger). Bowl B: from a shark where the fin is being used, and the rest? As shown on TV ads throughout the world... Which bowl would you eat?

Most of the friends I know are not that into conservation and wouldn't understand why Bowl A couldn't be consumed. In fact, most conservation ads that I have seen tend to only denounce Bowl B.

I feel, unless the world starts paying necessary attention to the shark's fin trade like the Maldives Government, soon even those at Underwater World would be stolen and sold at the restaurant.