Atlas investigated one of the world's richest points for marine biological life, the unspoiled Tukang Besi islands in the South Pacific. This reefs incomparable underwater universe is being published for the first time in the world press.
One of the world's richest areas for fish, coral and other living species, the region known as Wallacea shares the sea with the Tukang Besi islands. Soon - if not already - these islands will see the effects of such threats as bomb and cyanide fishing, and ignorant exploitation of the sea's resources... Tukang Besi's coral reef was surveyed to obtain biological data, determine reserve fields and prepare a management plan for the region. After this preliminary phase, coral reef experts from universities throughout the world will flock to the islands to conduct more detailed studies on the reefs, to consolidate the management plan, and to prepare a guide to the island's fauna and flora... Here we see Karang Kaledupa, one of the world's most beautiful reefs...
The Indonesian Islands are a source of interest in the Pacific Ocean, for genetic reasons as well as its remarkable tropical life span, now over 100 million years old. Ocean currents have sent the many species of fish to several regions, surviving in declining numbers from Indonesia into the Pacific. The damsel fish, for example, one of the most prolific groups of tropical fish, has reef population along Indonesia of 123 varieties, in the Philippines 118, Papua New Guinea 100, Fiji 60, the Society Islands 30 and in the Galapagos only 18. In the whole of the Caribbean there are only 16 remaining species of damsel fish...
Butterfly fish living in tropical coral reefs have flat bodies, small mouths, thorn-like teeth and a single dorsal fin, feeding in shallow water near the shore on coral polyps and various crustaceans. Occasionally they exceed 20cm in length, and, regardless of size, they can reach great speeds in pursuit of their target. Some of these bright yellow and black fish swim solo while others prefer join in a large school...
Sulp, scientifically classified in the same group as humans, is a phytoplankton eating creature with complex organs such as stomach, heart and brain. This gelatin-like creature carried along with the current sometimes grows to chains stretching 15m in length. These amazing creatures consist of nearly 95 percent water. Curiously, this species which flourishes in Indonesian waters is among the fastest growing animals in the world, at times in their early lives increasing their body size by one-tenth an hour.
One fish ubiquitous in tropical and temperate waters is the scorpion fish whose incredible camouflage make them difficult for divers to spot. Divers should beware, however, as their dorsal spines are highly poisonous,. These night hunters feed on shrimp, small fish, and mollusks, hurling themselves on their prey and swallowing it whole with their gaping mouths.
The volcano-cum-atoll nearly six miles from Timor Island, known to the locals as "devil's eye", plunges to a depth of 270m. Timor comprises one of the regions included in the non profit diving project known as "Operation Wallacea," organized in repsonse to the governmental decision to transfer people from over-populated areas of Indonesia to the islands as the country approaches 200 million people. This soft coral lives alongside countless underwater creatures in the vibrant underwater world in Timor.
Bright orange coral polyps, opening only at night, live in hollows in the reef.
The Tukang Besi group consists of 4 large islands (Wangi wangi, Kaledupa, Tomea, Binongko) and countless small islands and atolls. Hoga is a semi circular deserted island 2 km to the east of Kaledupa.
Oct 25. For the educational dive we split into groups of four. The tutors point out different species with rods, testing what we have learned from the previous night. In the evening, Phill starts teaching theory related to fish surveys. That night we dive off Hoga.
Oct 26. Fish studies till noon. Second dive starts at Finger Reef. We are passed by a large school of leer fish, a giant Napoleon, hundreds, maybe thousands of blue trigger fish, and various kinds of grouper. In the evening test I get 37 right answers out of 40.
A shell crab of Hoga hunting by night, possibly looking for a more comfortable home
This poisonous spiked star (Acanthaster plancii) feeds on coral and is one of the reef's greatest enemies. They are not found in sufficient numbers in the waters around Indonesia to disturb the delicate ecological balance, and thus no preventative measures are needed to insure the sanctity of the reef