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

Elizabeth Wood ewood at f2s.com
Wed Aug 22 04:46:09 EDT 2007

Hi Don,

Just a thought, but could it have been a red tide event? I personally 
witnessed the aftermath of a red tide on the reefs of Pulau Gaya (west coast 
Sabah) some years back whcih resulted in death of virtually everything - 
much as you describe. Within a day or so of the red tide 'cloud' passing 
through everything was rotting and there was a powerful smell of hydrogen 
sulphide. It was a bizarre sight that I have not seen since (thankfully).

Liz Wood

Dr Elizabeth Wood,
Coral Reef Conservation Officer,
Marine Conservation Society,
Hollybush, Chequers Lane,
Hants RG27 0NY
email: ewood at f2s.com
01189 734127


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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Don Baker" <reefpeace at yahoo.com>
To: <coral-list at aoml.noaa.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 6:45 AM
Subject: [Coral-List] Mystery Event - Lankayan Island, Sulu Sea, Sandakan

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. 

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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