Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bonfires of Trust, Flash-floods of Pain: Bukit Timah Floods 2009

While revising for my natural hazards exam, LIM JIAYI (there i acknowledged you!) frantically told me to read the newspapers about the flooding event at bukit timah road on 19/11/09. I was a little skeptical about how big that flood can be, despite the crazily cold and wet weather this past week, due to the north-east monsoon.

Then, I saw this:

Sorry for my delayed reaction and initial skepticism, BUT THIS IS HUGE.

According to some NEA and PUB statements, from between 1.20pm to 1.50pm, 93mm of rain fell in the Bukit Timah area. That being equivalent 115 OLYMPIC -SIZE POOLS' worth of water. okay, to make another less sensational comparison, our average monthly rainfall is about 200mm. Thus, in 30 mins, HALF A MONTH'S WORTH OF RAIN drenched Bukit Timah.

Let's say we are in the 1960s, and Bukit Timah is all green, vegetated and unurbanized. The flood probably wouldn't have occured. Not on such a big scale anyways.

This is because the soils would have been able to take it the excess water, via a process known as Infiltration (#6 in the diagram). The absorbed-water will then flow laterally underground, through processes known as Throughflow, Interflow and Baseflow (#8 in the diagram), into rivers and streams. The underground flows are slow flows - it can take weeks for the water from the storm event to reach the river.

#6: Infiltration (water enters soil)
#7/8: Throughflow, Interflow, baseflow (lateral flows underground)
#5: Overland flow (self explanat0ry)

But with urbanization and concrete everywhere, infiltration is unable to take place, as concrete simply does not have the capacity to take in water. Thus, instead of travelling to the river by slow underground flows, water now travels through Over-land Flow (#5). Our drainage system helps dissipate the water, but when a storm event like 19/11/09 occurs, it overwhelms the capacity of the drain. This is thus, an Urban Flashflood event.

Ah, the poor Ferraris in the basements.

However, the thing that most people probably didn't pay much attention to is the colour of the flood waters. let's refresh our memory:

According to LIM JIAYI, and i quote, "This looks like Milk Tea."
Yes, it certainly does. Which begs the question, why does it look like milk tea????

It looks like milk tea because of the massive soil erosion that took place when the flood occured. And the eroded sediments were then transported by the storm waters.
This erosion problem isn't just limited to 'this prime residential area' (to quote joseph wong, some business man).

Take a walk by the fields next to Jurong East MRT station, in the NUS campus. It's almost everywhere. The worst case I've seen is probably along the stretch outside Toh Guan Dormitries. So maybe its a problem that the NEA should look into. Because soil erosion is a pretty big hassle, a lot of money probably goes into replanting grass at these area.

Its rather ironic if you ask me, some of the worst cases of natural hazards we have in Singapore such as this flood event often occur a long the 'prime' district. Landslides too, are rather common in Bukit Timah and Hillview area.

Jalan Dermawan (hillview) landslide 2007.

so as my jc teacher likes to say DON'T BUY HOUSES IN HILLVIEW! (HAHAHAHA)

okay back to revision!
love, Serene!

Monday, October 12, 2009



because I AM ON THE READING LIST for a geography module offered in NUS, GE2229 (which i have taken last semester).

Please click to see picture (blogger is mad in all occasions):

can you believe this? because im still not over it.

I have to thank loads of people for this.
All my friends who accompanied me on such trips,
Chenko for his guidance and invitations,
TeamSeagrass, Ria (wildsingapore) and Koksheng (:

thank you all so so so much.
I will update soon after my crazy october deadline month.

Love, serene!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are we Human; or are we Dancer?: Kranji Coastal Cleanup

Its hard to imagine just how horribly DIRTY our coasts are - the bits that do not look like grass/leaves are really Rubbish:

Jiayi and I signed up for the International Coastal Clean-Up Day (ICCUD) and went to Sungei Buloh to pick some mangrove trash. Seriously, our socialized conception of Sungei Buloh looks like this:



A clean stretch of mangrove for migratory birds to settle, for mudskippers to skip gaily about. Girls guides trekking through the path (as I did many light years ago) singing songs, not having a care in the world; families enjoying the clean fresh air....

well, what you did not see is this:

and this (which we named the styrofoam farm), which nearly made me tear my hair out:

These are the beings lurking quietly in the Mangroves. Beneath the leaf litter cover, hidden behind tall grasses... they are like the monsters under your bed, you think they aren't there, but they are. (okay sorry i just read this Neil Gaiman book so im still stuck with his way of writing HAHA)

The very brave Jiayi and I signed up to battle some marine trash. Tho' some of them may have drifted over from Malaysia, i believe part of the rubbish originated from singapore. For example, I discovered a patch of buried syringes and small empty glass bottles. No prizes for guessing what they were used for.

and the weirdest find of the day:


Here's us hard at work:

Which led me to another issue we grappled with on that day. There was a bunch of international school students working alongside with us from NUS. and what struck me was how comfortable they were with getting dirty. How dedicated and committed they were to picking up trash in the most obscure locations. Locations that no doubt will result in muddy shoes, t-shirts and shorts. such as:

John (thats really his name) braved the muck and looked as though he rolled around in the dirt. Look at his shoes:

While we, the NUS kids, stuck to dry, comfortable (although trash-filled) in-land locations.

also, the girls (even those with makeup on) have absolutely no problem with slinging bags of trash over their shoulders, even with the gunk dripping out of it. I just cringed at the thought of it. Can you bring yourself to do that?

in their dedication, they even uncovered a 'boat' and several huge chucks of car parts:

There is a quote by poet Hunter S. Thompson about how America is raising a generation of dancers. By implication, the western world is raising a generation that is soft, self-indulgent and reliant (sorry to all dancers, Ive been through about 2 months of dancing and i know dancing is TOUGH).

However, their behaviour at the Mangrove proved contrary... no? Are they brought up to be comfortable with getting dirty, with the outdoors? Or are we, singaporean kids (myself included), getting too soft and comfortable with our clean urban spaces?

This thought made Jiayi and I kinda sad for a while.

Nevertheless, it was fun! and I am challenging myself, from now on, to really get to know the outdoors.

Love, Serene!

Special thanks to Miss Lim Jiayi, for wonderful company and great discussions. (:

Monday, August 31, 2009

"Take nothing but Photos, leave nothing but Footprints"

Someone woke up at the ungodly hour of 5am to visit the Sentosa shore. Like me, he has an ulterior motive. Only, a more diabolical one:

We are not sure who he is, or what exactly he is doing. but from the looks of it, he is either collecting shells, or small marine creatures.

Do you know that when you pick up a shell, you are depriving a hermit crab a home? ):
This is one of the reasons why I did not want to reveal the place of this bit of shore.
With increasing numbers of visitors, this fragile stretch of Coral rubble may be abused and exploited (such as above).

I know it sounds awfully righteous of me to say this, but please, be responsible - throw your litter into bins, and when you do visit a place in nature, respect it.

Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints (:
- Janette

love, serene.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Everyone has Secrets, and this is mine: Sedimentary Rock Landforms at Sentosa

Ah, look! Someone (Marcus) caught me obsessively photographing the rocks:

I have to admit, I went to the Sentosa monitoring trip with a sly ulterior motive - I was dying to take a look at the Sedimentary Rock Cliffs and caves by the coast. I have to say, I was totally blown away.

Alright, before I go any further. Let me first explain what are Sedimentary Rocks. I know most people are probably thinking ROCKS ARE ROCKS, THEY ARE STONES. THE END. but NO! As I have previously harped about, rocks are really records of the Earth's geological history. These historical records can be divided into 3 main groups:

1) Igneous Rocks - Rocks form when volcanic lava cools E.g Granite
2) Sedimentary Rocks - Rocks which are depositions of other eroded materials, and overtime get cemented together E.g Limestone
3) Metamorphic Rocks - Rocks which are formed under intense heat and pressure E.g Marble

So, the cliffs at Sentosa are Sedimentary in nature, namely, they are made of Sandstone:

notice the 'layers' that seem to mark the cliff, this is a characteristic of sedimentary landforms (pls click to enlarge, small pictures dont do these magnificent landforms justice!!!!!!!!!!!)

Also, notice that the cliffs are often bare and un-vegetated. This shows that the erosion processes, driven by the wave actions, are very active. Hence, this part of the island is actually receeding inwards, even now as I type!

A view from the shore:

some of us have the impression that cliffs are like:


These cliffs are what I call "geologically mature" cliffs. They go through millions of years of weathering and erosion. and just look at the size of the waves in this above picture, its difficult for Singapore waves to possess THAT much energy as we are surrounded by the Indonesian archipelago. Thus, our cliffs are relatively small, but no less special, as compared to the above.

Who knows, maybe with the tectonic shifts in the region, the cliffs at Sentosa could be like that in 20 million years! (:

anyways, back to my point - here are some observations i made about the cliffs:

(disclaimer: due to the appalling lack of academic literature about Sentosa's Cliffs, these observations are NOT cross referenced)

#1 Can you see that the rocks are kinda tilting in one direction? To help you see, i've drawn some very straight (ahem) arrows on the close up below! This means that the rocks are arranged in such a way that they are Landwards dipping.

This makes this side of the cliff fairly stable - meaning there will hardly be events like Rockfalls or Avalanches. This postulate is supported by the fact that there are no rock debris at the bottom of the cliff.


These caves form at the base of the cliffs, and these are the weakest areas of the sandstone. What do i mean by weakest?? meaning they are the most severely jointed area i.e. they have the most lines of weakness for water to penetrate and weaken the internal structure! such as:

see all the lines and cracks? There's actually a small cave in the making in the pic, try to spot it!

I wanted to duck into the caves for a look, but i was told gigantic spiders lodge in there... *BACKS OUT INSTANTLY* HAHAHAHA. maybe next time (or not).

Lastly, landslides are not uncommon at this side of Sentosa! I love this retaining wall, for some weird reason, it blended right in with the coastal landscape. i almost missed it! Behind it is a bunch of weathered material, clay probably, from the looks of it.

Well, there you have it. Despite the multiple and rather obsessive coastal reclamation (Labrador beach is the ONLY natural stretch in our Southern Coast), these beautiful cliffs remained untouched and often unnoticed. The date of this ONLY bit of graffiti state FEB 1979.

I would hate to think about the day when the government decides that one IR on sentosa is not enough, and this undeveloped bit gets reclaimed as well. Or worst still, this part gets commercialize and becomes part of the STB marketing scheme. so, before all that happens, i hope that my little blog post about this relatively unknown side of Sentosa has opened some of your eyes (:

this is our geological history!

Love, serene!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sunrise doesn't last all morning, a cloudburst doesn't last all day.

I took some photos of the sunrise at Tanah Merah shore the last time i went there:

There are mix responses to these photos - some people thought they werent taken in Singapore, and some people thought they were pictures of sunsets.

and i like:


and some nice pictures in sentosa:

And this reminds me of that thunder cloud in the short film before the movie UP!:

Nicely summed up by George Harrison:

Sunrise doesn't last all morning
A cloudburst doesn't last all day
Sunset doesnt last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
Its not always going to be this grey

Hope you guys liked this random post (:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More than just Orientation Games & Tanning Sessions: Sentosa with TeamSeagrass 21/8

Traditionally, Sentosa is the place I associate with tanning sessions with Chai and Anty, playing lame and very wet orientation games and well, basically anything touris-y and commercial. Pictures i take usually looks like this:

I think its an automatic reaction - whenever a peacock/peahen/peachick/peawhatever appears, everyone will whip out their cameras and frantically start snapping away. Unfortunately, I am too, a victim of such a reaction.

or these:

However, there's a 'wild' side of Sentosa that many of us overlooked. I was lucky enough to discover that non-commercialised side of Sentosa last Friday with TeamSeagrass. There is a stretch of intertidal-shore and a patch of coral rubbles at the western end of Sentosa. I wouldn't blog about the specific location, will explain myself later in the post!

The idea of us going there at 5.45 AM, is not simply to poke around that exposed patch of coral rubbles during superlow tide. We were there to work! (yes, work!!):

Here's Chun Foong and Jia Rui at their site, writing down the data,
and there's Kah Ming and I, probably trying to differentiate seagrass from seaweed there:
(photos of us working taken by Marcus)

Being the new-bird, I was assigned to pair up with Kah Ming, who very patiently explained the procedures to me. Broadly-speaking, what we did was to note down the percentage of Seagrass in a particular site, with the aid of the above ingenious grid. The type of seagrass, and the amount of algae found on the seagrass were also noted. These datas are collected a few times annually to monitor the health of our natural seagrass.

On top of this, TeamSeagrass is part of a global Seagrass monitoring organization based in Australia, and thus, by collecting such data, we are also contributing to the study of the global patterns and distribution of seagrasses.

Now you may be wondering, what's so great about Seagrass, aren't they just plants growing in the water?!

well, firstly SEAGRASS is NOT SEAWEED. It's like comparing your garden plants with those annoying dandelions that grow everywhere and smoother your plants.

this is a picture of a certain species of seagrass:

and these, my friends, are seaweeds:

(pictures credited to Marcus Ng)

I know I know, its hard to tell them apart and being a geographer, I'm especially lousy at that. But don't worry! We'll get there eventually : D

anyways, my point about seagrass is that, they are very important as they:

#1 Provide a nursery for young fishes to mature
#2 Are home to many marine species (fact: five times as many fish live over seagrass beds as over seafloor made up of mud and sand)
#3 Decrease coastal erosion

I know the first 2 points are frightfully important, however, Im more inclined toward the 3rd point.

Coastal erosion is damaging to beaches (and effect which Ivan has blogged about) and the trees on the shore. With Seagrass beds, the root network consolidate sediments and reduces wave energy. Hence, protecting the shore from further wave erosion.

To illustrate points 1 and 2, here are some intertidal organisms spotted that day:

This is an anemone, really pretty green frills it has!

and the Lightning-Dove Snails, they enjoy forming clusters. Kinda sweet in a weird way (Jiayi, stop tearing your hair out).

And this huge Red-Egg Crab that was strangely camera-friendly. Its color warns predators and probably humans crab-eaters that it is poisonous and it will be ill-advised to consume it. My mom thought it was cooked HAHAHAHAHAH.

and also, several species of Corals, both soft corals:

kah Ming thinks they are known as "Deadman's fingers". I love the name!!

and hard corals.. or is this an anemone, im not sure:

There are really more organisms there, but I didn't manage to photograph them, probably because I was too fascinated with the Sedimentary Rock Cliffs there. You can refer to the teamseagrass blog for more pictures of the marine creatures!

So exciting!!!!!!!!
CLIFFS IN SINGAPORE - now, isn't that something new! and of all places, in SENTOSA. the most commercialised tropical island on earth.

The post is getting too long, and I have an American history lecture tomorrow at 10am HAHAHA so let me keep you in suspense. STAY TUNED! (:

Here's a teaser ^^:

Love, serene!

Special Thanks to:
-Marcus for guiding, Kah Ming for putting up with my newness and teaching me many many things, Chunfoong, Abby, Joo Yong and Jia Rui for sharing this experience with me (:
-the water monitoring team led by Chenko for sharing this with me as well!