Monday, October 25, 2010

Tonga - Day 12 Part 2 Final

Hello everyone. So I was at the edge of the reef looking for the intake pipe. The waves were crashing onto the corals. It made me think of how the corals are actually very strong. I decided to walk back to shore.

A shallow water acropora growing on a large coral rubble. Although the body was brown, it had nice purple tips!

A couple of blue damsels in a shallow pool!

The biggest corals in this area were from the genus Porites.

A nice sea cucumber that would fetch a good price with the buyers.

This long slimy thing is a medusa worm. It is actually not a worm but a type of a sea cucumber.

A cute little Acropora millepora hiding among debris!

A bright yellow brittle star!

Groups of stony corals like this were common. There would be nothing and then an oasis of these stony corals growing together!

A yellow Pocillopora in a foot of water.

A large colony of purple Montipora digitata!

A wild trochus snail! This is pretty amazing considering that the only trochus around Tonga were the products of aquaculture. The original brood stock were brought in from Australia. The stocked cultured specimens must be spawning on their own in the wild. I have seen large adults while snorkeling around the shallows many times, but never a juvenile one like this!

A crinoid sea star clinging onto my fingers!

These dead porites skeletons looked like tree stumps!

Everything is big in Tonga! Check out this monster blue linkia.

This patch of the reef had these table like dead porites. Since the coral couldn't grow upwards due to the shallow water, it kept growing sideways. It is an amazing sight!

A few hardy Acropora milleporas were making a home in this desolate zone.

Many of the porites "tables" had openings on the top. In this particular hole, a live porites was making a home. I wonder what it would look like in a few years as the coral continues to grow.

Even a sea anemone made a home in one of the crevices! There were clownfish too but couldn't get a photo. The clowns looked like cinnamon clowns.

As I walked back towards the shore, I spotted this local hunting for something.

He was hunting for octopus! It was pretty cool how he was catching them. Once he spotted the octopus hiding in the rocks, he would simply stick his hand into the opening. The curious cephalopod would then stick out its arms and grab the fingers of the fishermen. Once the octopus arms were securely wrapped around the fingers and hand, the fishermen would simply pull out the unsuspecting slimy guy! There would be lots of ink at this time but no where to hide.

This is a small one and the local guy offered to give it to me. I told him to let it go since it was so small. He said that on a good day he can catch up to ten good sized ones during low tide. He mostly catches the octopus for food, but will sell if he has extras. The hard part is locating the octopus hiding in the rocks, catching them is the easy part. Oh and he did keep the little guy:(

The weather had changed and started to rain, time for me to go!


Ok guys, that is it for posts from Tonga. I hope you have enjoyed my adventures in this small South Pacific Island. I do look forward in going back in the near future!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tonga - Day 12 Part 1

Hello everyone. After spending time sorting corals at the fisheries, I decided to take a walk out to the beach at low tide behind the pump house. I wanted to see if I could locate the water intake pipe.

And just for your info, my friend has set up a fan page on Facebook for me. Come on and join me, I would like to see how many people are following my posts. My friend also changed the layout of my blog, looks different and more modern now - hope you guys like it- thanks Ferry!

The tide was going out and the mangrove roots were starting to be exposed.

Little mudskippers and fiddler crabs were dodging in and out. I tried to catch them but they were too fast! The roots of the mangroves are a haven to many small animals.

All kinds of little fish were darting in and out as well. I heard that big mud crabs can be caught in this exact location. I looked for some traps, but didn't find any.

The tide was still going out.

Caught this little crab running about!

Some black ink shot out among the seagrass as I was walking. It could either be an octopus or a sea hare.

About 100 yards out, the locals were collecting something.

I followed one lady to see what was in the bucket!

Just as I suspected, sea cucumbers. These small black turds are not worth much, but at least they are readily available. The deeper more valuable ones have been picked through.

Lots of brittle stars were roaming about!

A turbo looking snail. Even this size is considered small in Tonga!

I was getting closer to the edge of the barrier reef.

About 10 yards before the breakers, I found corals in the shallows!

This Montipora digitata had orange polyps!

Typical of very shallow water acros, some of these species get exposed during low tides and can survive. This chubby short branched acropora looked like a humilus or a samoensis.

A large tabling acropora. Note the surrounding area devoid of coralline algae.

A huge beautiful piece of liverock! Great shape, but unfortunately no coralline.

So finally I got out to the edge of the barrier reef and discovered all kinds of corals!

Here is a closer shot of the area.

These acros must be tough. Not only do they have to deal with the hot sun, but also the constant pounding from the waves! For those of you who never witnessed corals growing in the wild like this, it is truly amazing. I saw photos like this in books and magazines, and then saw the real deal in life, I was shocked by the total beauty of it!

You can see the water color being darker left side of the rocks (corals). This is where the barrier reef stops and drops off real deep.

The drop off is pretty steep. Years ago, we used to collect crazy chalice, lobos and symphyllias in this area. I once saw a turtle and a clown trigger once while snorkeling here. We pulled up about 5 yards from the waves and anchored. My guys went down to collect chalice and lobos while I snorkeled around at the top. I was amazed by a clown trigger and didn't realize the current was taking me into the rocks (corals). I got slammed into the corals and holy crap! Drank some Tongan seawater and swam out to deeper water. A turtle saw me and ran off!


Ok guys that is it for today. I have more pictures and stories to share with you from this day, so stay tuned. One thing that was kind of strange was that there was virtually no coralline algae growing anywhere in this section of the island.

Oh, and I never did find the intake pipe. It must be have been way out there and deep down!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Tonga - Day 11!

Hi everyone. So let's continue on to day 11 of my "Tonga adventures".

Computer work and such kept me in the "office" for most of the day. I got to the fisheries facility a little later in the afternoon. These two cool dudes are from AusAid, an Australian government agency that helps developing countries worldwide. In Tonga, AusAid provides funding and consultation to the Fisheries department as an ongoing support to help with various projects. Right before I left, these guys were gearing up to make a "road trip" to Ha'apai to collect clam broodstock. Man, I wish I could have stayed longer, would have loved to tag along and share the adventures with you. Anyways, I got to the facility and these two down under dudes (duds), had just come back from harvesting sea weed for their study subjects, the sea urchins. The guys were studying growth rates of the echinoderms.

Here is one urchin and in the Japanese sushi world, this guy would be worth a lot of money. The eggs inside is a delicacy. I have eaten the eggs before and it taste like dirt! I guess it is an acquired taste and I am not fined tuned enough for it - where is the can of mackerl!

The hungry urchins were devouring the sea weed!

A custom made enclosure just for the round spiky guys. The water entering the tank is natural sea water being pumped in from at least a hundred yards out.

Here is the water being drained into the raceway gutters.

I followed the raceway to this point, then it disappeared under the street.

Three very happy rose anemones minding their own business in the raceway! Everyone in the raceway is happy. Corals stop dying, even recover once put into the fast current. This reinforces how important it is to have the good flow in our reef aquariums. I am going to monitor these three roses every time I go back to Tonga!

The raceway drain runs under the street and runs along the pump house. That big reservoir at the top of the building is where the water is being pumped into. From there, it gravity feeds down into the tanks at the facility. The water to the tanks are controlled by numerous valves. To the right of the building are sand filters, but not being used. I guess it is better without these filters in this situation. It allows lots of plankton to enter the clam and coral tanks.

This multi million dollar facility was set up by the Japanese a long time ago. They set it up and trained the locals on clam farming and left. It was a gift, kind of like what the AusAid is doing now.

This thing looked like a back up generator, fairly new too!

These pumps and valves looked liked it was for the sand filter system. The motors were not running.

A big crate. Most likely some new equipment had arrived from Japan recently.

At current, two giant pumps were being used to pump water from the ocean to the reservoir up on the roof. The middle pump looked like it was being serviced.

These monster Toshiba pumps looked to be pretty new.

Good to see that things were being monitored!

This is the back of the pump house. Note the three pipes for the three pumps.

I went outside again and followed the raceway.

And it emptied into this settling area. I'm sure all kinds of cool things were living in here!

There were halimeda, the calcalreous algae growing at the bottom of the pond.

Also growing along with the halimeda, was a dense layer of Caulerpa racemosa. This "grape" algae is a local favorite food item, so I wouldn't be surprised if these were harvested regularly.

The water eventually drained on the other side of the pond into this corner.

The drain pipe disappeared into the rocks.

And reappeared on the other side!

Here is a close up of the drain. I could see little crabs and all kinds of stuff running around at the bottom of this "waterfall". I guess it is a good place to hang out to catch or look for food.

The water eventually disappeared into the mangroves and back out to the sea.

I walked around a bit and later found these local kids (the big guy is also a kid), playing in the settling pond!


Ok boys and girls, that is it for today. Uncle Eddie will tell you all about what he did the next day very soon:). All I can say is that the tide was out and I was having fun playing with sea shore animals!


Aquaculture Northern Bali

November Corals Collection Part. 1

November Corals Collection Part. 2

Aquaculture - November Shipment

Coral Showcase - September 2008 Inventory

Holding Facility's Corals Collection Showcase 2007