September 20th, 2009

It was a fairly miserable day out today, surveying Raffles Lighthouse – the sky was overcast, turning to rain, and then even heavier rain, to the point where we felt we were in the Bermuda Triangle, with fog all all round us, and no sight of any of the familiar land- or sea-marks. Only our boatman Mr Lee seemed unfazed by the horror movie setting. To top it off, just as the fog encased us in its eerie embrace, we saw this – a waterspout. A fairly big one too. Chay Hoon almost immediately Twittered it (I’m not sure how that form of magic works, even though I signed up on Twitter! :P).

The conditions at Raffles remain overcast (thankfully not drowning-type rain), and the water water was welcome after the slightly shivering cold up top. Things went well until after lunch – Kee Seng and Gina went in and were struggling against a strong current that had built up around us without our realising. We had to abort the dive, leaving much of the deep transect undone. Ah well … such are the challenges of doing field work. We’ll be back to Raffles another day to finish off what we started.

Dolphins and Whales 3D – season ended

August 26th, 2009

The Dolphins and Whales 3D show at the Singapore Discovery Centre ended its run on 7 Aug 2009. We had advertised the show on our “Upcoming Events” page; description below is posted just for record purposes.

Not a BWV event as such, but an interesting screening of a 3D documentary on dolphins and whales at the Singapore Discovery Centre.

Dive into a new immersive and highly-emotional adventure with DOLPHINS AND WHALES 3D presented by Jean-Michel Cousteau. This awe-inspiring documentary film will take you from the dazzling coral reefs of the Bahamas to the warm depths of the waters of the exotic Kingdom of Tonga for a close encounter with the surviving tribes of the ocean. Through the giant screen of the iWERKS Theatre at S’pore Discovery Centre, experience stunning images captured for the very first time in 3D, view these creatures’ lives and habitats never-before-seen by anyone. You will come so close to wild dolphins and belugas, you will virtually touch them. You will witness the profound love of a Humpback mother for her newborn calf, and come eye-to-eye with singing Humpback males. You will meet an orca, the mighty King of the ocean, and enjoy a wonderful moment with the gentle manatee. Explore many little-known aspects of these fascinating and fragile creatures capable of sophisticated communication and social interaction. Join the expert team of ocean explorers that brought you SHARKS 3D and OCEAN WONDERLAND 3D in an unforgettable diving experience that documents the life of these graceful, majestic yet endangered sea creatures.

Presented by: Jean-Michel Cousteau;
Directed by: Jean-Jacques Mantello;
Produced by: Francois Mantello;
The director of photography: Gavin McKinney with additional cinematography by Rob Torelli.
Herve Prigent served as production manager;
The score was composed and arranged by Christophe Jacquelin;
The script is being written by a team of international scientists led by Dr. Elisabeth Mantello.

Duration: approx. 40 mins
Audio: English
Subtitles: Chinese

For more information, visit the Singapore Discovery Centre website.

Public Lecture on “The Blue Future”

August 5th, 2009

I had the opportunity to attend the public lecture by Professor Tony Haymet, Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences, University of California, San Diego on “The Blue Future: Exploration of the Oceans”.

SIO is, quoting their website “… one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for ocean and earth science research, education, and public service in the world. Research … encompasses physical, chemical, biological, geological, and geophysical studies of the oceans and earth.”

Prof Haymet, who is “Oz-tra-lian”, spoke eloquently about the research carried out at SIO, which has 1400 staff (wow!), 1 research platform and 4 ocean-going research vessels (double wow!), making the institute with the largest research fleet in the world.

He also spoke about their Argo Floats system, in which “robot” sensing devices are used to measure temperature and salinity of the oceans. “So what?” you might ask – well, research institutions from 26 nations and over 3000 fully autonomous floats deployed throughout the world’s oceans is what Prof Haymet called their “proof of concept”. It is fully collaborative project, as all the data (“… which happens to sit at SIO …”) is made fully available to researchers.

He showed videos of their modified unmanned (unpersoned?) aerial vehicles, initially designed for urban warfare, to collect atmospheric data. The weapons of destruction were replaced with micro-computers and micro-sensing devices. With this technology, they have tracked the flow of “brown clouds” across the globe.

He also showed the audience the need for long-term monitoring, and how it might produce unexpected results. A 60-year record of fish larvae and water quality data sampled from the Monterey Bay area, initiated to study the disappearance of sardines (important for Monterey’s sardine industry) has now become what is thought to be the most complete record of the effect of climate change on fish populations. The data is now being written up in what Prof Haymet calls “… the most important climate change effects paper” from SIO.

He briefly mentioned the SEAPLEX expedition to study the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch – a patch so big, you would take days to sail through it! Modelling of the ocean currents shows a potential patch in the southern hemisphere off the coast of Ecuador and Chile that is even larger.

He also touched on SIO ocean acidification research, which had recently recorded an unheard of value of pH 7.5, which no one thought they would see in their lifetime. This acidic waters (a result of our CO2 emissions) spell disaster to all marine plants and animals that secrete a calcium carbonate skeleton acidification. For me personally, such levels of pH would spell the end of coral reefs that I love so much.

It was surfeit of information, crammed skillfully into an hour-plus talk which barely scraped the surface of the research done to understand our “inner space”. It was the best use of four hours (travel there and back, makan, the talk) of a Monday evening.

Coral cover at Hantu West patch reef, 10 May 2009

July 31st, 2009

The results of the Reef Friends survey of Hantu West patch reef on 10 May 2009.

The shallow transect.

The deep transect.

Murky Semakau

June 6th, 2009

Survey of one site at Semakau proceeded smoothly today, despite the terribly murky waters in the morning. Visibility was only about 1.5m, but improved over time to become more than 2.5m. Water colour remained green all through the dive, unlike the almost-blue of the previous months. Water at the shallows was also hot … a scorching 31 degC. It was much cooler at the deeper transect (maybe 29 degC), and Sargassum was beginning to dominate the shallows. Seems to be early this year – will need to compare with our previous surveys to see if this is a “normal” occurrence for this site.

Thanks to Yan who organised the trip, and Zi Wee, Darryl, Rachel, Kee Seng and Eunice for volunteering!

Cheers, Jeff