Pulau Hantu After Recent Fire at Nearby Oil Refinery

Date October 2, 2011


Today I visited the shores and reefs of Pulau Hantu with Jeffrey Low, a Senior Conservation Officer at NParks. As the jetty on Pulau Hantu Kecil was closed, we dropped off at the south jetty and walked along the beaches and sea walls of Pulau Hantu Besar.


We were most amazed at how crisp the air was. Jeff and I commented that the air was not as foul smelling as days when the refinery at Pulau Bukom was flaring. There could be any number of reasons for this – there was the big rains that we’ve been having that could have helped clear up the air, but it could also be the kind of fuel that was burned during the recent fire combusted more completely than the gasses that are usually burnt during flaring, which can leave a distinct scent of sulfur in the air. (Above: oysters and carpet algae with Shell refinery in the background)


Without any comprehensive tests though, we can only speculate the causes and potential effects of the recent fire. (Above: View of Shell Bukom refinery from Pulau Hantu Besar, less than 2km away)


The latest media reports say that while the fire has been put out, fuel vapor remains at the site. This news was likely submitted yesterday evening at latest, before the large night time/morning downpour. It also mentioned the use of foam to curb the resuscitation of any fire. In light of this, I thought it would be useful to find out more about fire fighting foam.


During the walkabout with Jeff, we found this snail with an oyster living on its back. Jeff said that snails are known to be able to keep their shells clean so how an oyster ended up getting lodged in and growing on the back of a snail is truly interesting!


We also encountered several large Casuarina trees that have either been uprooted by recent storms or fallen over from old age. Look at the size of this tree’s roots next to Jeff! The fallen tree is estimated to be about 20 years old. Evidently, the soft and shifting soil along the edges of Pulau Hantu isn’t great for the roots of big trees to grow into.


After the walkabout, we took a dive into the reef, which was very busy with fish today! I saw a pair of Leopard grouper (Plectropomus leopardus) which really made my day as not only are these fish not common, they are a very desirable fish for anglers, so its good to still see some around. Other fish I saw included schools of Parrotfish, Goldenback fusilliers, Goldengirdled Butterflyfish, Copperbanded butterflyfish, Six-banded angelfish, Streaked Spinefoots, Yellow-spot rabbitfishes, Silver moonies and Yellow-tail barracuda. We also spotted a Reliable Chromodoris, Black-margined Glossodoris, heaps and heaps of Blue dragon nudibranch, and a Winged pipefish.

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