[Coral-List] Mystery Event - Lankayan Island, Sulu Sea, Sandakan

Don Baker reefpeace at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 22 01:45:12 EDT 2007

Dear Coral-L:

Several months back, an event happened at Lankayan Island, north of Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia (Sulu Sea), that resulted in the death of corals, sea cucumbers, giant clams and other marine life - from shallow water to approximately 3 meters.

During this event, the seawater smelled putrid and noxious, whereas, it was initially assumed to be from all the dead marine life.  The water salinity was measured at or near 25ppt, and very unusually strong currents were present near the southern portion of the island's shallow reefs. Wave force was rough at about 1 to 1.5 meters.  The weather was sunny without any rainfall either at the island region nor on the North Borneo 'mainland.'

Please refer to this publication with regards to page 9 / Sandakan Sub Basin and Sulu Sea Basin.   http://www.doe.gov.ph/ER/archives/win_opp/cd/petropot.PDF

The nearby islands to closest to Lankayan Island are the Philippines Turtle Islands - with Buan Is. the closest and to the south west.  Buan Is. is classified as a "mud origin' type island mass, whereas, decades ago there existed active mini mud volcanoes there.

Observation by the local fishermen in the same Turtle Island region have seen many large, upwelling mud plumes flowing from the under the sea (perhaps pushed out by the natural gas pressure in the Sandakan Basin edges near North Borneo?).  

In short, this event seems to point more so to a natural cause rather than from runoff from the N Borneo coastal regions.  The lowering of the seawater salinity was also significant as well as higher than normal water temperatures in the same area.  Could this also be a combination of 'ancient freshwater' also extruding along with the mud and perhaps natural gas?  Lastly, the seawater visibility (noted by the tour divers in their complaints) was very poor [< 3 meters at times].  The color was 'gray' the same as the mud on Buan.

Can anyone recommend an institution to confirm the cause of this event?  Has anyone observed or know of any similar events worldwide?  What would be the best way to monitor and gather data if this event is natural and caused by the oil/gas/'old' water?   Is this event also dangerous with regards the Lankayan Island's proximity to such a event?  

Any advice, assistance, comments are welcome.

Don Baker
Reef Guardian Co-Founder
Sabah, North Borneo

Alternate Email: donbjr95 at hotmail.com

"Dedication and motivated direction in achieving specific goals related to the care and protection of living things is not necessarily a guaranteed formula for success.  Success is, more often than not, a direct result of a person’s passion in addition to the above formula." [Don Baker, Marine Conservationist/Activist, 1998]
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