Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Blog Volunteer in Tsunami Disaster

Jeff Greig, the Hantu Blog's volunteer divemaster was in Koh Lanta with his family when the disaster hit Thailand. He was snorkelling in Emerald Cave 5 minutes before the destructive waves struck. We are relieved that he and all his loved ones have returned home, relatively unscathed though emotionally shaken.

Our heartfelt sympathies go out to those who have have lost their families, friends or homes in the disaster. For those who continue to look for their loved ones, our prayers are with you.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Aceh dive centre destroyed

I was diving in Aceh's only dive center, Lumba Lumba, 3 days before the quake occured. It has taken two very long and desperate days of calling up friends and embassies and looking for family. Finally I received news of survivors, and when I finally caught up with them, learnt that by some miracle everyone but 10 on Pulau Weh, an island north of Bandar Aceh and just a few hundred kilometers from the epicentre of the quake, had survived.

However, homes and the dive centre which are located along Gapang Beach have been completely destroyed. The resorts in the nearby Iboih Beach have also been devastated.

Help has yet to get to Pulau Weh. Communication remains down and the situation in further south Bandar Aceh demands serious attention. I heard that the villagers have put up in a mosque and can only depend on each other for help now.

The follwing sites provide information about the situation in Aceh:
Earthquake in Sumatra (English & German)
Help for Pulau Weh
The Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
Agam's Gecko (Blog)
Lonely Planet Online: Thorn Tree [Cache 1] [Cache 2]
Divers Survive Tsunamis at Pulau Weh
by AFP
Sabang City Gets Back to Normal by The Independent Voice (Indonesian)
Help Needed for Pulau Weh (FinsOnline Forum)

Online Translators for German and Indonesian

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Speaking of slugs

Sea slugs such as Pteraeolidia ianthina from the southeast coast of Australia are a far cry from their dowdy, garden-lurking cousins. The flashy marine mollusks caught the eye of American novelist John Steinbeck, who in CanneryRow described them as "slid[ing] gracefully over the rocks, their skirts waving like the dresses of Spanish dancers." Modern fans of the creatures can share information at the newly revamped Sea Slug Forum, hosted by malacologist Bill Rudman of the Australian Museam in Sydney. The site includes more than 30,000 images, and the fact sheets offer tidbits of the biology of about 1400 species from around the world. For example, Pteraeolidia ianthina hosts colonies of photosynthetic algae, which can share their food with the slug and account for its brownish color. In the forum section, an audience including scientists and scuba divers talk taxonomy and ecology, mull photos of hard-to-identify specimens, and swap sea slug lore.

Exceprt from SCIENCE Vol 306 29 October 2004

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Letter from Dr. Bill Rudman: An Update of Doto Bella

Following up on two earlier Blog entries 'Analyse this!' and 'Analysed!', Dr. Bill Rudman, Principal Scientist at the Australian Museum, writes:

"I have checked up on what we really know about Doto bella and as I suspected it is very little. I can't even be sure if yoru animal is indeed Doto bella. Since it was described in 1938, a number of species from Japan have been identified as this species but none fit the original description very well. It would be very useful to have some more information on your animal especially about its size and the colour and shape of the head tentacles [rhinophores]."

The Hantu Blog and photographer Paul Tan are in the midst of sharing information with Dr. Rudman to get a better idea of what animal we're looking at.

It'd be thrilling to note if Singapore waters has a rare and relatively poorly described critter! So please continue to contribute your photographs! What may seem a casual picture may hold greater value than you think!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Singapore's first National Geographic Dive Centre

It's finally here and Seahounds is Singapore's very first PADI National
Geographic Dive Center

The Hantu Blog is proud to be affiliated with a dive center that has not only remained committed towards value-added diver education, but has finally received the recognition it deserves.

Congratulations Seahounds on this exciting and milestone event.

Visit the Seahounds blog to learn more.

Demons on Ghost Island?

There sure are! And we're proud to have them!

A kind of scorpionfish, Devilfishes Inimicus didactylus (also called sea goblins, bearded ghouls and demon stingers) have very special pectoral fin rays that can be moved independently from the rest of the fin. This looks as if the devilfish was walking over the ground. They look very clumsy and unwieldy because they also drag their extremely curved tails. The inner surface of their pectoral fins are brightly colored and they flash them if threatened. It can deliver a painful sting with its venomous dorsal spines. Sometimes several fish lie together.

Devilfishes occur on sand and mud bottoms close to reefs and in seagrass meadows. They often bury themselves in the substrate, making them hard to detect on the reef. Active mainly at night, this fish spreads its colorful fins when threatened.

This critter, a master of stealth, was photographed at Pulau Hantu on 21st November by Stanley aka. Photosmart, of the ClubSNAP forum. He is one of a group of photographers who visit our local waters regularly to discover for all of us, her astounding treasures!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Jane Goodall needs your help

Renowned primatologist, Jane Goodall, was in Singapore this week to deliver an inaugurating speeh to this years Biology in Asia International Conference.

With an air of peace and a stance of confidence, she addressed international scientists, conservationists, students, and individuals who care about the state of the environment, about the importance of getting involved and playing a part, no matter how small.

She spoke of her years as a young scientist studying Chimpanzees in Africa. She was with without degree nor money, and had to work hard to finally meet someone who would sponsor her work in the country of her dreams.

Her remarkable stories of faith, determination, belief, and beauty, moved the audience and even drew some to tears.

What was most intended, however, was to motivate people into action. To inspire.

The Jane Goodall Institute is a global nonprofit that empowers people to make a difference for all living things; creating healthy ecosystems, promoting sustainable livelihoods and nurturing new generations of committed, active citizens around the world.

This outstanding woman demonstrates through her compassion, patience and effectiveness, that there is, reason for hope, and that everyone has a role to play.

Roots and Shoots is a program founded by Dr. Jane Goodall to engage and inspire youth through community service and service learning. This global program emphasizes the principle that knowledge leads to compassion, which inspires action. All Roots & Shoots groups show care and concern in three areas: the human community, animals, and the environment. Won't you be a part of it?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


"What is this bizarre-looking creature?!" That was the question in the last blog Analyse this!

Thanks to those who dug up their field guides and gave a response on the Tag Board!

Nudibranchs can be a real challenge to ID. Not only do they occur in incredible variety, but they also have mimics and similar-looking sub species. It's hard to find everything in the books, but there're always other resources such as the web and people, people, people!

I got in touch with Uma Sachidhanandam, founder of A Guide to Singapore Nudibranchs...

"I have not seen one like this, it has several lobes compared to Thecacera."

So I looked up Dr. Bill Rudman, Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Museum, and creator of the Sea Slug Forum...

"This is a nudibranch but not Thecacera. It is a species of Doto, almost certainly Doto bella."

To the left is a picture of one variety ofThecacera picta. Its distribution is originally recorded from Japan, and since from northwestern Australia. Records also include the Indian Ocean [Maldives] and various islands in tropical western Pacific.

So it is not Thecacera sp. but Doto bella. It's easy to conclude IDs at the closest visual match, but animals can differ in morphology, and often times, minute physiological differences, so it's always good to exhaust your resources! Keep taking pictures and keep flipping your field guides! You never know when you'll discover something new! Several new species and new ranges have been discovered by the regular "backyard" diver. Who knows you could be next!

Reference: Sea Slug Forum

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Analyse this!

Photo: Paul Tan

What do you think this blob on a Giant hydriod is? Put your guesses into the Tag Board and find out how good you are at critter ID. If you refer to a source, please quote it!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Jeff's Blurp

What a great day it was! The weather was perfect, the seas calm, the viz decent, the entertaining company of old and new friends, and a couple of really good dives. And yes, the big storm on the way home was spectacular! I thoroughly enjoyed my fresh water open air shower!

Many crinoids this time! Adorning Giant hydriods and baby Gorgoniams!

It was nice to dive the north side of Hantu for a change too. It was great to see the small sea fans and sea whips along the sandy bottom at around 11 -14m, although sparse. It shows that our marine life here in Singapore is resilient, but still disappearing. There are many Neptunes Cup sponges hugging the reef slope along this side too, and some are quite large! The crest of the reef between 3 - 5m along this side is particularly impressive. The large boulder corals (i will let the marine biologists fill in the names for me), were HUGE and HEALTHY. A great mix of massives, submassives and foliate corals, mixed with pockets of kelp made a great home for the many damsel fish inhabiting this area. No wonder they were aggressive! Didn't want me to invade their last bastion of marine garden!

Can't wait for the next dive, and hope the marine biologists can join us more often!

Thanks again Deb!

Jeff is a volunteer divemaster-guide with the Hantu Bloggers.