NEW BURST OF LIFE AFTER A SANDSLIDE

 

Last December 27, the seascape of the coral garden of Les was radically altered. Eric, a dive instructor  who  had been diving   the  coral garden  for two weeks, was the first  one to discover the change.  The day before, he dived and passed through the expansive steep sandy slope east of the METRO garden,  with its patches of sea grasses and sprinklings of nudibranches and goatfishes. But barely 24 hours later, without making any noise to alert those on land,  this sandy slope is  gone. In its stead  is a deep ravine, with 82 meters long wall running east to west, and a drop off that goes as deep as 20meters  from the wall’s highest point.

 

NEW WALL IN LES VILLAGE

Western end of the new wall in Les Village, two days after the sandslide

 

Tons of sand and silt have slid downward overnight to the depths carrying with them a row of decade-old metal tables planted with corals and the months-old pentagon structures that serve as artificial reef. The sandslide created wavelike patterns in the seafloor reaching all the way to the METRO, Adopt A Coral, LES structure, and BIS metal A frame. These structures remained intact although they  sank a centimeter or two on the seafloor due to the shifted sands.

 

pentagon buried by sandslide in les

Buried beams of the pentagon with damselfishes, 4 months after the sandslide

 

 

The whole sandslide area looked lifeless, devoid of fishes and marine critters. Visibility was poor,  the water swarming with silt and dirt. The wall, its drop off, and a hill-size mound at the bottom are the first to capture one’s attention in the new seascape. But diving closer to the new wall, one finds the remarkable sight of alternating layers of dead corals  and sand/silt/rocks ,  running from bottom to top of the wall. It seems to indicate that this is a recurring phenomenon: the  filling in of the ravine by sand/silt, then corals growing on them, and them being buried in sandslide as the ravine fillings gave way. The fisherfolks in Les called the sandslide Fenomena Alam (natural phenomenon).

 

 

Layered wall, top part

layered main wall, bottom portion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  Top portion of the wall, layer of coral skeletons underneath                                 Bottom portion of the wall showing the layer lines

 

Four months after the sandslide,  the silt and sand have settled down and water visibility is back to incredible. The drop off looks shallower than what it was last December.  Life is back with a vengeance – with small fishes darting in and out of wall crevices. Gobies and cardinals,  the most numerous colonizers, honeycombed the wall and made it  home.  Some species of gobies have appeared in remarkable numbers.  Surgeon fishes are  the most numerous among the larger species that have taken residence . Moorish idols and several pairs of butterflies swim in and out of the site, no doubt, to settle down there  once the corals start growing again.

 

 

Bluedot goby

 This bluedot goby is among the most prolific colonizers of the altered site

 

Les has a pre- existing wall and drop-off, about 80 meters long, also running east to west.  It is entirely covered by hard and soft corals and sponges. Its wall crevices host schools of sweepers, damsels, cardinals, wrasses, surgeons, anthias and fusiliers among others. The new wall starts where this pre-existing  wall ends  and is its natural continuation.  If the new colonizers of the new wall is any indication,  marine life  here will soon be as abundant and varied as in the pre-existing wall.

 

new wall with fishes

The honeycombed new wall is now bursting with life

END