Thursday, June 6, 2013

Last field trips on Day 17 of the Southern Expedition

This is the last day for field trips. A bitter-sweet time when we savour every moment at the Expedition.
Heng Pei Yan and I decide to hunt for shrimps at the lagoon next to the public jetty. It was a hot day, with the main city skyline and the greenery of Seringat-Kias on the horizon. There were also diving, dredging and mini-talks.

When I arrive at Base Camp, I stop by the stations to see what happened the night before. The strange bivalves that burrow into rocks have extended their siphons! That would make a great photo of these bivalves that live in the bottom of the sea.
Another spotted reef crab has been found. It appears we do not have many specimens of this in the museum, which is needed for proper study of the animals.
My first time seeing the beautiful Tapestry turban snail.
There was also this sea urchin that has not been seen in Singapore for a long time.
Photo by Rene Ong.
The night before, it seems Dr Kevin Tilbrook had been running a 'duck face' competition!
Photos by Dr Kevin Tilbrook.
Then it's off to breakfast at the dining area. Koh Kwan Siong, who has been looking after us so well, is frying up eggs for everyone.
The St. John's Ultimate, built by Pei Yan. I can feel my arteries hardening just looking at it. I ate something similar and I must say it was delicious and kept me going through field trip until lunchtime.
The last dredge trip starts off soon after breakfast. Thanks to Paul Ng we get a glimpse of some of the highlights of the trip.
The NUS Research Vessel Galaxea has been doing all the dredging throughout the Expedition.
Photo by Paul Ng.
Dr Bertrand, a deep sea expert, at one of the last dredges of the Southern Expedition.
Photo by Paul Ng.
Setting down the dredge looks easy but is dangerous work and requires experienced and patient people working in a team. Lim Swee Cheng is next to Dr Bertrand, with Chim Chee Kong handling the winch.
Photo by Paul Ng.
Once the dredge comes up, everyone helps to quickly sort out the animals so they are preserved for the long trip back to Base Camp.
Photo by Paul Ng.
Some amazing sponges found at the bottom of the sea in Singapore.
Photo by Paul Ng.
Meanwhile, Pei Yan and I work hard trying to find stuff at high tide! Although this stretch of shore is quite rich when seen at low tide, we can't seem to find much in high water.
Pei Yan has found a handy way to carry her bucket!
When Pei Yan and I arrived there were children playing with balloons at the sea side. Horrors! Tiny pieces of burst balloon may end up in the sea and get eaten by sea turtles and other marine life. I explained this to the adults supervising them and they kindly agreed to get the kids to clean up after the game.
We then moved off into the mangrove patch to try to catch more shrimps and fishes.
The highlight of the day is the return of the dredge after lunch. They sure brought in a lot of stuff!
The photographers select those that need to be photographed.
Among the special finds in the dredge: a Gomeza crab that Prof Peter Ng loves. And a funny looking sea urchin.
Prof Charles Messing went through all the feather stars and these are to be returned to the sea as we already have enough of them. Indeed, at the Expedition, we don't take more than we need.
We were happily sorting through the bags of sediment brought up during the dredge when it started to pour with lightning strikes all around us. Just moments before Lee Bee Yan said we should end the Expedition with a bang. And indeed, there are a very loud and scary lightning strike near Base Camp which triggered off the fire alarm.
Ensuring all the finds and gear were stowed away properly, we headed back to the main building for the last of the mini-talks held in the evening.
Meanwhile there were two day dives at Terumbu Pempang Laut and Terumbu Pempang Darat. Debby Ng tweets: First dive at Terumbu Pempang: lotsa shrimp & crabs in Crinoids, fusiliers, sweetlips, volute, conchs. And second dive @ Terumbu Laut: Stick & Orange-spot pipefish, pen shell, bullocki, porcelain crabs, cardinals, stingrays, cuttlefish. Alas, when they got back, it was too dangerous for them or any of us to go out to transfer stuff in the lightning storm. So Debby took it "so near and yet so far away" shot from the dive boat.
Photo by Debby Ng
At the end of the mini-talks, Dr Tan Koh Siang took the opportunity to thank the scientists and everyone for being a part of the Expedition. And Prof Daphne thanked him on behalf of everyone for leading the Expedition.
Well after the daytime participants left, late into the night, the remaining staff continue to work hard on the dredge samples.
Photo by Rene Ong
Rene Ong also shares a photo of one of the nudibranchs found during the dive survey.
I'm heading back soon to Base Camp for a day of packing up. Although it has been exhausting, it has also been an exciting three weeks of fellowship, field trips and funny moments. As Debby Ng says "Today wraps up the diving for the #megamarine survey but the work continues! Still lots of sorting, identifying, writing & analysis to come!"

The blogging and live updates from the Expedition would not have been possible without the tireless and thoughtful tweets, photos and updates from these people.

Ivan Kwan (who actually got us started on this during the Northern Expedition).
Debby Ng
Heng Pei Yan
Meryl Theng
Paul Ng
Marcus Ng
And many others too.

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