Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Friday, June 30, 2006

Blog Log June 25, 2006

While the weather wasn't too pleasent this Sunday, with rains holding up till 10am, we continued our venture out to Hantu with a full boat of Xplore guides and guests. Because of the cooler surface temperature, getting into the water was alot more comfortable and warm, and some of the creatures we came across during our first dive included juvenile sweetlips and rubble pipefish, as well as shy crinoids.

On our second dive, there were other delicately coloured crinoids, also known as feather stars. Crinoids are among the most ancient and primitive of ocean invertebrates. They are Echinoderms, the same as seastars, brittle stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers.

This is the same animal but with its tentacles slightly unfurled this time. To feed, they extend their arms to catch bits of plankton or waste matter passing in the current. The number of arms a Crinoid has varies widely between species; some may have as many as 200, each up to almost 14 inches in length. Crinoids are distinguished from other echinoderms by the fact that their mouth is pointed upward, unlike their starfish cousins. There are nearly 550 species of comatulid crinoids worldwide.

This is not a new picture to the Blog. Photographed a few times before, I continue to find it entertaining seeing such a handful of tubeworms living so closely together. Until I found out that these feather duster worms live in groups, making them social! These worms make their tubes with calcium-based minerals, similar to our bones. The worms use their antennae (or radioles) to catch food and to breathe. Ocean currents push water through the radioles, which work like a net to trap tiny plants and animals called plankton that float in the water. The radioles also work like gills, exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen in the water, allowing the worm to breathe.

We also found a new pair of shrimps in a Ritteri anemone (also known as Magnificent Anemone). While there's one that might look quite prominent to you, notice another hiding closer to the anemone's tentacles. She's gravid because you can clearly see her brood of green-coloured eggs, right through her transparent body, amazing!

And who could ever have enough of them? With a good number of anemones at Hantu, several anemone fish can be found at Hantu. We know at least 3 species that can be found here. The anemone, with its stinging tentacles, protects the fish from predators. Like all cnidarians it has nematocysts, that explode when touched, injecting poison in any aggressor or prey. The reaction is triggered by contact, and it is inhibited by substances in the mucus coat: two tentacles belonging to the same anemone can get in touch without attacking reciprocally.


Reef Xplore guide Hui Bing, took divers out with the Hantu Blog on Sunday, June 25. Being a ClubSnap member, she's almost always with her camera, and just as well! She photographed these critters from that weekend.

A pair of Anemone shrimp.

A great shot of a boisterous juvenile sweetlips.

An a magnificent Gymnodoris nudibranch.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Year of Turtle 2006 Public Seminar

Saturday 24 June 2006: 3.00 - 5.00 pm
Venue: Imagination Room, Level 5, National Library
100 Victoria Street
Admission is free

Jeffrey Low
Senior Biodiversity Officer,
Marine and National Biodiversity Reference Centre,
National Parks Board

I: “Sea Turtles and Singapore: Biology, recent nesting, and conservation”
by C H Diong , Nanyang Technological University, NIE

Sea turtles are slow growing, late-reproducing, long-lived air breathing marine reptiles. Their life history, migratory behaviour, and roles in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, as well as the causes of population declines, are better understood today. Of the seven species of sea turtles – all recognized as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), four have been recorded from our territorial waters. One of them, the hawksbill turtle has been nesting on our shores. An inter-institutional group and other NGOs have been involved in a sea turtle conservation and public education programme in the past few years.

II: “Underwater World Singapore and Sea Turtle Conservation”
By Wah Yap Hon,
Assistant Curator, Underwater World Singapore Pte Ltd

Underwater World Singapore houses four species of turtles; hawksbills, greens, loggerheads, and olive ridleys. Our work on public education, and the rehabilitation of injured and stranded animals should continue to interest members of the public on these fascinating and wonderful sea creatures

III: “Singapore CITES and Sea Turtles”
By Gerald Neo,
Senior Wildlife Enforcement Officer,
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority

The Agri-Food and Veterinary (AVA) safeguards food safety, and animal and
plant health. It also regulates wildlife trade and animal welfare. The role of AVA in the implementation and enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), particularly in relation to conservation of sea turtles through prevention of illegal trade of marine turtle products such as, eggs, meat, shells, living and preserved specimens, is discussed. Cases involving illegal trade of marine turtle products will be highlighted.

IV: Q & A and Panel Discussion

V: Display of Sea Turtle Exhibits and Materials

Organised by Year of Turtle Singapore Committee and the National Library Board Singapore Partners: IOSEA, Raffles Museum (NUS), NTU, NIE, UWS, NParks, AVA, NSS, WildSingapore, Blue Water Volunteers, Pulau Hantu Bloggers

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Blog Log June 11, 2006

The days leading up to the dive were wrought by heavy and relentless downpours. Even on the morning of the dive, the sky was overcast with a teasing drizzle. As the bumboat pulled out of West Coast Pier however, things started to look a bit more promising - skies cleared up and the sun began to warm us up. It's almost as if we truly had luck on our side, and everyone was going to have an enjoyable day of diving with bright sun-shiny skies. The first critter we ran into that morning (though we probably past several critters without spotting them!) was this shy filefish hiding against one of Jani's angle irons.

Then this Pseudoceros flatworm, seemingly asleep, lay on the edge of the coral, unfettered by our camera flashes and stares.

Then Chay Hoon spotted something amazing - A tiny, baby Rubble pipefish. Don't let this macroshot fool you, it was hardly noticable. When she first spotted it, it was in a spot of silt, which made it even more camouflaged!

Then Kang Ngee caught on and pointed out this larger pipefish of the same species. It was much more shy, and I only managed one shot before it wriggled off into a crevice.

Here, a tube worm commonly known as the Feather duster worm, builts its home in a gorgeous field of Goniopora tentacles. The other divers sighted razor fishes in this area before we got there..

A sample of stunning architecture, I believe this is Platygyra coral (correct me if I'm wrong!). What impressive beauty!

Another tube worm, oblivious to my presence.

Right through lunch and our surface interval, sunny skies kept the day looking promising. But luck ran out just as we were about to make our entry into the second dive! Storm clouds rolled out, and here, Joseph checks out the wakes stirred up by the strong winds. As surface currents picked up, we decided to wait out abit and see if the storm would clear.

It'd been a long time since we were caught out in a rain like this. After about half an hour, the rain began to subside. The divers who'd been huddling on the boat from wind and rain were very eager to hop into the warmer waters..

But then the second wave arrived, and with greater gusto! Surface visibility was greatly reduced and lighting led us to consider waiting the storm out a little longer.

But as the rain continued and the wind relented, divers turned to conversation about marine encounters and memorable dives. Not to mention, techno-pop music blaring through our skipper's new MP4 player!

Heading back to the pier, we came along the RSYC, where a distinct and concerning plume of silt was staining up the water. This silt probably arrives from nearby land activities such as construction or from areas where trees have been cleared. All drains lead to the sea eventually, so it's important never to litter whether on land or at sea. Not to mention, for companies responsible for construction activities to take proactive mesures to prevent such occourances.

For memory's sake: (from left) Divers Joseph, Andrea, Xiangyi, Wai Ming (Xplore guide), Wyatt, Hui Bing (Xplore guide), Bill (a visitor from Hawaii), Chay Hoon, Kang Ngee, and Reef guides Gina and myself, Debby.

Juvenile Sweetlips on the loose!

Reef Xplore! guide Hui Bing, who took divers out Pulau Hantu over the weekend with the Blog dives, photographed this adorable baby Sweetlips on Hantu's reef!

These tiny, spotted, agressive swimmers try to mimic the undulating movements of a flatworm, confusing predators and wriggling into the safety of the reef. A tough task to photograph, the dancing, juvenile Sweetlips is a relatively common critter on Hantu's reef. Look out for them the next time you take a dip into our local waters!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Pictures tell a thousand words...

Nature groups and nature people were recently invited to Hwa Chong Junior Collage to prepare students for a photographic adventure into the wilds of Singapore, that is, our backyards!

The Hantu Blog gave a talk about how and where to find unique creatures thought non-existant in Singapore by most. The insightful talk proved to students that you don't have to travel far and wide, or spend lots of money to meet and document extraordinary wildlife, and that knowledge and understanding of your subject can help you get the best shots and experience!

Dr. Chua Ee Kiam's talk was more focused on the techniques of photography. He has published 4 books since that depict nature in its wild splendour. He also imposed upon those at the talk, the purpose of photography, and the freedom that exists in portraying the wild.

Several students from HCJC and other schools, including secondary schools and their teachers, also attended the talk. Some raised very good questions and mostly all were wowed at the amazing wildlife that can be found right here at home, and the excitement of immortalising them with photographs.

Samples of some works from WildSingapore, Dr. Chua Ee Kiam, and the Hantu Blog were displayed in the lecture theatre and will continue to run at HCJC campus till November this year.

Joseph Lai, author of eart-heart.com was also at the talk, infact, he was the one who rallied all of us up to share our experiences and lessons with the students. He truly proved to the students how the extraordinary can be found in the ordinary.