Feb 22, 2010

I have done what most men do,
And put it out of my mind;
But I can't forget if i wanted to,
Four feet trotting along behind

Day after day, the whole day through
Wherever my road inclined
Four Feet said, "I'm coming with you."
And trotted along behind.

Four-Feet by Rudyard Kipling

Feb 21, 2010

Post Post call

Would have done more work but totally KO-ed yest:P Don't mind the calls but post call is really a pain..

Feb 18, 2010

Semakau 1st walk

Now we go into the main attraction (For me) on Semakau: The intertidal walk. When they created the rock bunds connecting P Semakau to Sakeng part of the original reefs on Semakau were left untouched. Part of Singapore's Reefs that are collectively less than 0.0154% the size of The Great Barrier Reef but with more that 50% of the species there!

First you have to pay to go in.. In blood :P Short walk through a rainforest path to the shore. The mozzies there only get fed when crazy people go for an intertidal walk so beware..

Once out of the forest you are facing a wide expence of shore that seems to stretch out for miles until it fades into the sea. The sheer contrast between this and the damp closeness of the rainforest.. Oh and no mosquitoes :)

Every inch of shore is teaming with life so place your steps with care. Like these little Creeper snails scribbling their signature in the sand as they graze on the sand. Seafood lovers are familiar with their larger cousins (Chut chut) that they claim are best served fried with chili and garlic.

In the distance a looming reminder one of the main threats facing Semakau: Industrialisation. Chimneys of oil refineries on an adjacent island. Hopefully Semakau will never end up looking like that. As it is the silt thrown up by surrounding developments is clouding up the water..

Another Shore view..

Our Seagrass Meadow and it's path of death.

Seagrass? No not algae. These are marine flowering plants with true roots and stems that are actually related closest to lilies or the common ginger plant. They are callled Eco-system engineers as their thick growth dampens water currents creating sheltered nurseries for small fish and crustaceans. Uses? Support for commercial harvesting, nutrient recyclers - 1 hectare of seagrass can treat effluent of 200 people a year. For these reasons it’s economic value is estimated at US 20 500 an acre. In the wild they also serve as the grazing grounds of many animals eg the dugong.

Very sensitive to changes in water quality. Their leaves are capable of regeneration after being nibbled, but when their root rhizomes are injured their regenerative ability is irreversibly impaired. To avoid excess damage to the patch here we have actually sacrificed some by constant using a fixed path through the lagoon as you can see from the dead strip . This spares the rest of the lagoon some trampling/stirring up of mud at least.

Another shell. Called “Kilah” in malay this is the Noble volute a ferocious hunter, it seeks out buried bivalves with its siphon and encloses the prey in its huge foot then waits. When the exhausted bivalve opens up to breathe (which can take several days), the volute sticks its proboscis in and rasps the flesh of its prey with its tongue. And yes the noble volute is edible and is collected both by shell collectors & for the pot. But not at Semakau. Here the hermit crabs who use the discarded shell for housing get first pick. And anyway the original occupant was still at home you can see a bit of spotted foot peeping at you under the lip of the shell.

Semakau's mine field (But here you do more damage to the mines instead of the other way around) These are the imprints of star fish called the sand sifting sea star (Archaster typicus) They bury themselves during the day and emerge during cloudy days/ at night. Though their name suggests otherwise these are not fish but rather echinoderms which are symmetrical along 5 axis with spiny skin and tube feet. Efficeient bottom feeders, their mouth is located on the center of their “star” on it’s bottom side. They feed by protruding their stomachs from their mouths and mopping up detritus from the sea bed.

Buried sea stars - "bodyprint" caused by them flipping sand up to cover themselves

Another sea star with a moon snail.

This beautiful snail is nocturnal and moves around mainly at night. Contrary to it’s beautiful appearance this snail in reality another formidable hunter. When on the move it inflates it’s body with sea water part of it forms the mantle which covers and protects it’s shell and part of it forms it’s foot with which it ploughs through the sand. When it locates a bivalve it encircles and suffocated it. Or it may choose to secrete a strong acid that soften the shell before using a radula (essentially a tongue with teeth to bore a hole through the shell. You might see other small shells with perfect circles burned into them. Those are all that’s left of a moon snail’s successful hunt.

Gigantic carpet anemone

Hard corals law down a calcium carbonate foundation that acts like a skeleton. This is covered by a thin layer of living tissue made up of individual coral animal called polyps. Each polyp within the colony has a mouth which is surrounded by tentacles that trap food. The skeleton of the coral is called corallite this is a pic of a dead skeleton next to it's living counterpart.

From Latin nudus meaning naked and greek branchia meaning gills this colorful fellow gets his name from these bunches on his back end. They are called branchial plumes from which he breaths. Sort of like carrying it’s lungs/gills on his back. His cephalic (head) tentacles are sensitive to touch and smell and it his club shaped rhinophores that pick up smell. But unlike us it only has simple eyes with only 5 photoreceptors ( we have a few hundred) and can only "see" darkness or light. They are also hermaphrodites (partners fertilise each other they don't self fertilize). Descended from snails they have traded curbsome shells for more efficient defense mechanisms. Some adopt colors similar to that of the sandy floor or even of the corals they live on. Others ingest hydroids or stinging cells from the jellyfish or sponges they eat and express them on theirs skin. The latter few often have an extremely colourful appearance to warn away potential predators. Can they be eaten? Well everything can be eaten though some things only once.. Jokes aside some people do eat them after removing the poisonous organs. Islanders off Russia and Alaska enjoy a variety of boiled/roasted sea slugs.

Not sure who this is specifically..

Not sure but I think those 2 stalks are it's "eyes"

Black marginated Glossidoris... Beautifull

Phyllid nudibranch (being shy and all curled up)

Snapping shrimp
While walking on the sand kept hereing this clickng sound turns oout it was this guy (someone managed to catch one -released later of course) How it clicks? I really don't know must check that out..

Sunflower coral

Everyone brings up Pirates of the caribbean when they see this.. Name? Dead Man's fingers sure look like flaccid water bloated fingers don't you think? This is actually soft coral (Hard coral without it's hard calcium skeleton. Out of water the tiny polyps retract into a soft tissue matrix to avoid drying out when in water they emerge.. Looks like a garden blossoming actually.

Rubbery out of water soft coral

When back in water

Coral gardens

Little Nemo's of Semakau. Found them stranded in a shallow pool. Clown fish - the inseperatable buddies of sea anemonies. A mucus coating protects them from an anemone's sting. While in the anemone they are protected from larger predators. In return they drag their prey back to the anemone for a shared meal. The nemo waits till the anemone has swallowed the food then sticks it's head through the "mouth" of the anemone (center of their tentacles) and takes it's food nicely pre-digested...

Looks like someone has caught the angler fish also called the frog fish because of it’s wide mouth and bulging eyes these fishes are famous for, no pun intended, fishing. Can you see the lure dangling from it’s forehead? The anglerfish dangles that in the water with it’s squat body well camouflaged y the surrounding sand. Small fish are attracted to the waving object and when they come too close… Apart from hunting their camouflage is also important for protection. When flushed from their hiding places in aquariums and clearly visible these fish have been noted to be set upon by wrasse, angel fish and even clown fish and killed.

Pipe fish - relative of the seahorse. Think this one is a daddy.. See the central bulge? The males carry their young llike their cousins.

Feb 17, 2010


Now the real reason for this blog. Ever heard of Pulau Semakau. Ok maybe you haven't and I won't blame you. It's essentially a rubbish dump - but one like no other. Commissioned on April fools day 1999, Semakau Landfill was seen as an answer to our growing waste problems and congested landfills. Created by building a 7km rock bund to enclose the sea between Pulau Semakau and Pulau Sakeng, this was lined with an impermeable membrane and marine clay to prevent the leakage of wastes. This was divided into individual ponds that would be sealed and drained when ready to receive the rubbish. In the meantime sea water was left to flow in the unused ponds making them a haven of marine life and attracting fisherfolk of both the rod and feathered variety. Much of the original mangroves on Pulau Semakau were conserved and currently reforestation projects are being carried out to replenish the mangroves. Seen as an eco friendly move this also serves as a leakage indicator for any mangrove in the vicinity of a leak would die. Here are some shots on the island:

Clean energy on Semakau: Wind and solar energy

Lagoon surrounded by the rock bund

Monitoring wells to check for leakage water samples are collected regularly

Picnic sites! Super strong ocean breeze. Semakau is also offering recreational activities like cycling, kite flying, star gazing and fishing. Had a fantastic BBQ here.

You won't believe that that this is a landfill right? As the lots are filled they are covered with soil and seeded. Already many small trees growing making them look like a normal patch of wild grassland. And because it is mainly insinerated trash - there is no smell. I didn't have any good pics of the "true" Semakau. Right at the jetty is a huge building where refuse, comprising incinerated waste from our three incineration plants and construction debris, first arrives from the mainland. It houses 3 ton trucks, cranes that lift one ton of ash at a go, barges that tip the scales at 3500 tons. (these barges are parked at night to avoid busy sea traffic) With incineration reducing the amount of rubbish by? 90%, it is expected (or hoped) that semakau will continue to fulfill our land fill needs till 2045. And after that who knows? An island get-away?

Hornbill nests?

First time using a blog or anything like this (those who know me as an IT Idiot.. I can imagine your reactions) Well as I was told what better way to share Singapore's living treasures. So here it is, Blog entry 1: That little box in the tree? If i'm not wrong it's one of the hornbill nests set up to encourage them to breed! Saw this at just before the Alexander waves Southern ridges walk. Couple of years back I was hanging out of a bedroom window when my mutts went mad downstairs. Not the Yap-at-passing-car-or-puffed-up-cat-mad but the KILL-IT-EAT-IT mad when I looked down my best hunter was attempting a very clumsy tree climb (she managed about a meter before polishing the ground with her rear). The tree in question was a mango tree full of flowers and what do you know no less than 5 hornbills were stuffing their faces with the flowers. The pic at the top of this blog is a souvenier from that episode (with no zoom no fancy lens nothing thats how close they were!) Evidence that the ongoing breeding project has been successful.
Our local hornbills almost got extinct when we cleared our island of all the old hollow trees in which they nested. Once mated the male seals his wife into a hollow tree by blocking the entrance hole with mud. There she will stay for the months it takes to hatch her brood and for them to grow their mature fight feathers. With no suitable trees we got a few visitors from across the causeway but none remained to breed. Solution? Artificial nesting boxes like the one above. Here is another close up.

Now I think that family has settled in as my new neighbours. Many thanks to those who worked so hard to bring them back. From a super rare sighting they routinely visit the fruit trees in my garden and no one jumps at their loud "wonk wonk" any more. Even Stripes my hunter doesnt spare them more than a disgusted look. Maybe she is used to them but I'm willing to bet she remembers that afternoon when her alpha almost died laughing at her :)