Sisters survey, 19 July 2008

Finally made it to Sisters Islands (also known as The Sisters, or more properly known as Pulau Subar Darat and Pulau Subar Laut) again. We missed surveying this site last year, due to very bad (zero) visibility on our last trip.

The visibility wasn’t great today, about 2.5m, but manageable. With only 5 of us today (and one not trained at all), we had our work cut out for us – Jun and myself tackled the shallow, while Chay Hoon, Yan and Wei Yong tackled the deep transect. The coral transect went relatively smoothly – there were some large colonies there and it made the data recording somewhat easier.

A large Symphyllia coral … the slate is about 15cm long.

I did notice quite a few overturned corals (11, to be exact) and fragments of plate corals. I also observed some aluminum frames (probably from NUS experiments) scattered across the reef, like a hurricane gone through. After the survey, while swimming back to the boat, I found out why – I found the remains of an anchor, still attached to its chain and a significant length of the rope, spread out across the reef! Lacking the cutting tools to remove the rope, I had to leave the remains there. But it should not be difficult to find the anchor again – a job for another time.

An overturned coral head. Lifting it to shallower waters was not possible, but at least I managed to push it back upright.

During the fish survey, right at the start of the 4th transect, I spotted a fish I had never seen before on our reefs – a Bumphead bannerfish (Heniochus varias)! Fish survey forgotten, I managed to snap a series of blurred photos of the fish.

First in a series of blur, sediment-filled photos of the bannerfish.

The second blur shot of the bannerfish, at a slightly better angle.

The third blur shot of the fish.

This is the 3rd fish that the Reef Friends surveys have encountered that are “new” to Singapore, the other two being the Barramudi Cod (at Semakau – can’t find the link, sorry!) and Janss’ pipefish (at Jong and Hantu).

My elation at spotting a possible new record was somewhat squashed when I checked with our local fish expert Kelvin (from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS), since this fish had been recorded from Singapore before. The upside is that the older record was from a fish market, which makes this the first known record of a live fish on our reefs. I was also cautioned though, that this fish might be a released specimen (by someone bored with his marine tank, perhaps), but there is no way to verify this.

We managed to complete all our surveys by 3pm, and I even managed to turn some of the overturned coral back upright, in the hopes that they would recover from their trauma and continue to survive.

All in all, a good dive – but then again, my philosophy is that every dive is a good dive :)

Cheers, Jeff

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