Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Is that number 6 or 9?" - reading an unlit LCD in the dark... Sentosa water quality monitoring (21 Aug 09)

Another session of water quality monitoring with Team Seagrass - this time at Sentosa, a world of sun, sand and sea (or so they advertised). We were not in the least surprised that this was yet another "wake up in the wee hours, rush down by cab" kind of operation. But what was new (at least to me) was to measure water quality parameters in the dark (~ 6a.m. so the sun is out, leaving us the sand and sea). Fumbling with torches in the dark to squint at the 4th decimal in the LCD readout provided a refreshing start for the day.

Actually, it was not that bad. Even though the moon was down, plenty of light came from the nearby hotel and the sea traffic. Yup, we are talking about light pollution. This form of "pollution" is rather benign compared to pesticides and heavy metals but I still hope that we have less of it to truly savour the shimmering beauty of the night sky. Fortuitously, the pre-dawn sky was pleasantly clear, filled with familiar constellations despite the invasive artificial lights. Orion, Taurus, Canis Major, Auriga were high up. Mars was there too but the star (pun intended) must really be Venus which outshone all the rest.

This was the perfect opportunity for me to practise navigating by stars. Do you know that Sirius (C. Major) and Canopus (Carina) form a straight line that points to the South on the horizon? How about dropping a line straight down from Mintaka (leading star of Orion's belt) to point to the East? Stargazing is more than just for aesthetics.

You may have noticed that I have yet to mention anything about the wondrous seashore life. The plants and animals were nothing short of breath taking so I shall leave their descriptions (with great photos) to the experts in these areas (Ria's is highly recommended). Also, check out the following blog posts for alternative viewpoints of this little outing:
1. Team Seagrass
2. You run, we GEOG

Many thanks to Marcus Ng for being a such a marvellous trip leader and guide. (Or were we harassing him from our incessant questions about each and every observable intertidal organism?) He has clarified an old doubt of mine - seagrass vs. seaweed. Though I have always known that seagrass is a flowering plant and seaweed is an algae, you have to get down in the mud and dirty your hands to see and feel the differences. And this can only be accomplished with an adept guide to point you in the right direction. Like someone once said, life is a little bit of theory and lots of practice.

(Serene, I don't think you can use the analogy of garden plants vs. dandelions to compare against seagrass vs. seaweeds. I love dandelions and seaweeds! You can eat dandelions and seaweeds! You can even make a coffee substitute out of dandelion roots :-)

Overview of the seagrass area with sheers cliffs in the backdrop

Seagrasses with some brown seaweeds

Seaweeds and more seaweeds.

The water quality monitoring team in the darkness

Sentosa was still asleep but the lights were certainly active.

A significant interest on this trip - awesome clouds replaced the stars as night turned to day. Here, a cumulonimbus appeared to be forming.

Reflection - a favourite camera angle. Here, the same cumulonimbus has grown which probably led to the thunderstorm in the afternoon when I was back at work. (Yes, I have to go straight to work after this Sentosa trip!)