About the Orang Seletar by Choo Chee Kuang

Click to listen to this 22 minute radio interview with marine biologist Choo Chee Kuang from the Malaysian Society of Marine Sciences (MSMS), who has been working with the Orang Seletar in southern Johor. The interview was conducted on BFM89.9 (Malaysia) and presented by Meera Sivasothi.

Thanks to Chua Ai Lian and Victor Yue for the link!

@loupok’s sms tweets from the NSS’ conference, “Nature Conservation for a Sustainable Singapore”

Twittering a conference can be fun and interactive and I did this at Nexus 2007, sms-ing Kenneth Pinto who relayed to to his blog and twitter accounts. It’s a great way to check back on ideas you might forget as well.

Marcus Chua presented our Ubin paper early last Sunday at the Nature Society Conference. Unable to join them, I asked Marcus for updates so he SMS-ed, relaying Shawn Lum’s tribute to the late Navjot Sodhi and Geh Min’s Talk which addressed “spatial justice: land for all,” e.g. public spaces for parks – but if land is parcelled for private use, e.g. condominiums and golf courses, that only benefits the few. Then she went on to talk about making EIAs mandatory by law.

This was very interesting and it’d be great if these topics could reached a wider audience for now or later. So I asked Marcus if he’d switch to twitter. He replied “dumb phone and no internet wireless.” During the break, he found a willing undergrad @loupok who cracked her knuckles and took up the challenge.

Here is a raw dump of that exciting Sunday which drew much applause from all of us – remember, she did it all by SMS!

Speakers have a December deadline and NSS will issue most of these papers. You’ll have the source to cite, but for now, you can whet your appetites with her tweets:

@loupok at the Nature Society (Singapore) conference on “Nature Conservation for a Sustainable Singapore“.

Refer to the programme here.

At the nature society of singapore conference.
First talk: the urbanization of the biodiversity of pteridnphyte flora in singapore by dr benito tan #nssconference

  • Pteridophytes are ferns. 2009 investigation of fern diversity of CCNR by John Tan found only 60 species.
  • Red data book: 121 species of ferns and fern allies listed as vulnerable, endangered or crit endangered. #nssconference
  • 2 fern ally genera in singapore: Lycopodium and Selaginella
  • An overlooked urbanized fern: Microlepia speluncae
  • Native fern of ornamental value: Nephrolepis acutifolia
  • Edible fern found in bukit brown cemetary: Diplazium esculentum
  • Problems in fern id: variability, cultivars, hybrids,confused species
  • Have documented 75 species and 39 genera of ferns and fern allies outside nature reserves, excluding cultivated species
  • Question about no. of non native ferns in singapore: dr tan says 5.

Second topic: bats in singapore, ecological roles and conservation needs

  • 2011 is the UN designated year of the bat!
  • Bat diversity in singapore: confirmed records for 25 species. 6 fruit and flower-feeding, 19 insect-feeding
  • Bat survey methodology: use of harp traps.
    Rediscovery of the bi-colored roundleaf bat. New record: Hardwicke’s wooly bat.
  • Bat with unique morphology: naked bulldog bat, from family of bats with ‘free tails’
  • Bats important as pollinators, dispersers, insect predators, and ectoparasite hosts
  • Nice photo of cave nectar bat pollinating petai flowers
  • Urban structures such as highways and buildings important as bat roosting places.
  • Pouched tomb bats live in human habitations, calls are within human hearing range
  • Use of sonograms in analyzing the echolocations of bats and for the study of bats
  • Question about changing the public mindset about bats. Speaker says: outreach and education.

Now the talk by marcus on the co-existence of medium-sized mammals and humans and the future of conservation on pulau ubin

  • ‘The big 4 of pulau ubin’: greater mouse deer, common palm civet, eurasian wild pig, long tailed macaque
  • High visitorship to pulau ubin, leading to habitat encroachment as roads and trails are created and people start entering the forests
  • Issues faced by wildlife on pulau ubin: poaching, coastal pollution, conflicts of interest with multiple landowners on the island
  • Also, development of energy grid on the island. This could affect 3 out of the ‘big 4’ mammals that are nocturnal.
  • Bi-phasic use of the island: human visitorship mainly in the day and on weekends; animals ‘free to roam’ on weekdays and nights
  • Long term conservation of pulau ubin: much is in limbo because future of the island is as yet uncertain.
  • Question about what the villagers living on the island hope for the future of the island.

Now ding li is speaking on ‘saving singapore’s biodiversity in an increasingly hot, hungry, foreign and fragmented world’.

  • Have lost 143 species of butterflies. Have lost a lower proportion of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians.
  • Most of the threatened species are forest-dependent species.
  • Habitat fragmentation in ccnr: ccnr is broken up into 4 fragments
  • Not all species are equal. Those more likely to go extinct: big size, poor dispersers, large ranges
  • Malayan pangolin apparently fetches $110 on the black market
  • Conservation goal: Maintain as many species as possible for the longest possible time for ecological integrity
  • Ding li suggests 3 ecological concepts to consider for conservation: Island biogeography theory, source sink theory, metapopulation theory
  • Look beyond species lists. Population studies of individual species necessary. Also, importance of habitat preservation.
  • Proposed 6 key measures to take: legal framework, reevaluation of species, protect habitats across a larger landscape
  • …Increase connectivity among fragments, evaluate impacts of alien species, monitor impacts of climate change.

The 5th talk is on insect conservation in singapore.

  • Small scale water bodies could be important for insects like dragonflies, danselflies and aquatic insects
  • Saproxylic insects are insects found in dead wood. Beetles are the most well studied of the group
  • Longhorned beetles are good indicator group for saproxylic insects. Relatively easy to id to morphospecies. Also charismatic.
  • Summary of principles and actions: multi-scale management and focal insect groups

6th talk on butterfly conservation at the butterfly trail @ orchard

  • The butterfly trail stretches from the botanic gardens to fort canning.
  • Butterfly visitors seen so far from tge trail include the Grass Demon, Peacock Royal..
  • Butterfly connector linking up istana park and penang road
  • Have conducted 8 public and member walks, 2 butterfly photography workshops.
  • At least 12 butterfly species known to be breeding on the trail
  • Current count 52 species. 32 common urban butterflies.
  • Increase in butterfly diversity from baseline no. of 13 species to 39 species at penang road open space.
  • Comment frm audience on extending this effort to hdbs and other housing estates
  • Public doesnt like to see caterpillars, but can get around that by hiding host plants behind more ‘aesthetically pleasing’ plants
  • Suggestion to target the istana as part of the orchard rd butterfly trail

Conferences like this make me feel hopeful 🙂

The next talk is on horseshoe crabs; the horseshoe crab research and rescue project

  • Background on hsc: ‘living fossils’; more closely related to spiders and scorpions than true crabs; have blue blood
  • Only 4 species of hsc in the world, 2 of which are found in singapore.
  • Hsc have cultural value in japan, taiwan.
  • Considered romantic by the malays.
  • Not clear if mangrove hscs in singapore are permanent residents here, and if they will migrate elsewhere
  • Not clear if the hscs have homing instincts. Use of electronic acoustic tracking to monitor hsc movement in straits of johor
  • Transmitters glued onto the hscs. Any negative effects on the hscs?
  • Submesible receivers suspended from fish farms at around 2m depth, 1km apart along the strait of johor
  • Prelim results frm 7 months: crabs detected abt 6.5km away from one of the sites.
  • Caught hscs at one site and released them at another site. Hscs didnt seem to migrate back to the site of capture
  • No homing instincts observed so far frm hscs.No apparent movement twds open sea.No regular movement patterns.Monsoon didnt seem to change movement.
  • Possible confounders of results: hscs might like to hang around fish farms where there is food; survey efforts.
  • Hsc conservation a matter of national interest? Since we have 2 of the 4 species found in the world.
  • Protect nw coast of singapore, and mandai mudflats from causeway to 2nd link. Extend sg buloh wetland reserve. Ramsar convention.
  • Transmitters are permanent on hscs until they moult.

Lunch break now! Phew.
Vegetarian food! How environmentally friendly 🙂
The mentos at the conference have undergone parthenogenesis

Next up at the conference: the Wild Animals and Birds Act, Issues and Questions

  • 3 main laws in singapore: the endangered species act, the parks and trees act, the wild animals and birds act
  • The wild animals and birds act (waba) protects all species equally. Especially terrestrial species.
  • Is a wildlife harassment the new battleground? Wildlife tourism and wildlife photography.
  • Do we need privacy laws to protect our wildlife?
  • Another question raised: should the waba move from protecting wildlife to supporting wildlife? Eg protect wildlife dwellings, food sources
  • Citizen policing: moving from reporting to deputizing.
  • Very interesting questions being raised. Do charismatic animals and birds and flagship species deserve special protection?
  • But will the waba then become vulnerable to ‘freakonomics’?
  • Do vulnerable animals (special threats) and birds deserve special protection? What about special needs animals (young, mothers with young)?
  • There is a ‘mother and child’ law in malaysia that penalizes the capture of animals with young more heavily.
  • Do we need specialist laws to protect ‘non traditional animals’? Eg horseshoe crabs, corals. These have trad been protected within protected areas
  • ‘attracting foreign talent’: do migrants deserve special protection? (hah)
  • Do we punish ‘pests’? Alien species: should owners be prosecuted?
  • Should the law define the circumstances under which wild animals can be killed? What abt population management or sci research?
  • Should we prosecute employers for wildlife offences committed by blue coloured workers?
  • With low penalties, does anyone really care about wildlife law?

Next up: the current botanical status of mangrove forests in singapore by jean yong

  • Mangrove plants have important role in carbon sequestration in marine environments
  • Current status of mangroves in singapore: 700+ hectares. Increase from 650ha in 1990s
  • Mangroves in singapore: 120ha at sg buloh; 150ha at P. tekong; 100ha at P. ubin – sg jelutong and sg besar. Also 40ha at P. pawai.
  • We have only lost 1 species of mangrove plants in singapore.
  • Bruguiera hainesii, a rare species found at pasir ris park. Internationally endangered, of the same status as the panda. 4 trees in singapore.
  • Whole of vietnam only has 2 Bruguiera hainesii trees. Singapore has 4 trees. (lost 1 when mas selamat escaped.) Hope for legal protection status.
  • Ceriops zippeliana: new record for singapore. More ‘inland’ species than Ceriops tagal.
  • Lost the last Kandelia candel tree in singapore in March this year.
  • But there is hope for recovering the species through recruitment of propagules from johor/pen. malaysia
  • There are 6 Bruguiera species in the world, Singapore has 5. The last species is found in Brisbane.
  • Natural recolonization is taking place for Bruguiera sexangula.
  • Why are there so few aerial plants (epiphytes, mistletoes and climbers) in singapore’s mangroves?
  • Except for p. pawai. “we need to thank the military for protecting our nature areas”
  • Conversion of aquatic environments to freshwater will affect the mangroves, esp Avicennia which require salty conditions
  • Pub/cuge has proposed a list of mangrove species that can grow in freshwater conditions
  • Increasing occurence of ‘albino propagules’
    Rhizophora stylosa: hardy mangrove species to grow for carbon sequestration. ‘biodiversity engineering’.
  • 4 species at risk: Merope anugulata, Cassine viburnifolia, Aegiceras corniculatum, Avicennia marina.
  • To end off, a nice photograph of customized boardwalks that accomodate the mangrove tree roots.

Next talk by Vilma D’Rozario, co founder of The Cicada Tree Eco-Place, on making a difference for wildlife through outreach

  • Cicada Tree Eco-Place has ‘Make A Difference’ lessons for kids.
  • ‘MAD lessons’ include slideshows and nature walks. Kids make native animal crafts which they can bring home.
  • Conduct guided nature walks. Free walks for kids frm low income background, funded by Lee Foundation.

Next up, more insights from the nss horseshoe crab project.

  • Dr Vincent Reyes shares about how teacher trainees from nie are involved in the horseshoe crab proj to get hands on interaction with nature in the context of the importance of first hand contact with wild nature

Last talk before the next tea break: ecotourism in singapore and its relation to biodiversity conservation, by Margie Hall, nature guide and nss hon sect

  • ‘Tourism’ is a means, and ‘conservation’ is the goal. Ecotourism is a type of tourism specifically set up to get money for conservation
  • In ecotourism there should be a strong emphasis on visitor management and education.
  • Visitor management: control the time spent on the nature activity, control the number of visitors allowed at any time, control the area where visitors are allowed etc
  • Ecological sustainability should be at the heart of ecotourism. (Argues that singapore has no ecosustainability and hence cant have true ecotourism.)
  • Conservation can be achieved and funded in many ways, not necessarily through ecotourism.
    Conserved areas can be visited by individuals or groups with guides WITHOUT BEING ECOTOURISM. It is important to use the term ‘ecotourism’ properly.
  • There is no ecotourism in singapore. Because conservation is funded in other ways (govt funds, donations etc), not directly frm money frm visitorship to the nature areas.
  • My first time hearing about this. ‘Monkey island’: ecotourism to see macaques at pulau tekukor.
  • Mandai road “nature” tourism project – another eg of an “ecotourism” project.
  • We don’t have ecotourism in Singapore and I can’t see that we ever will

Next lecture: Robert Teo on Pulau Ubin as a haven for wildlife

  • Pulau ubin in the 1950s was covered in plantations in the east and west
  • Land ownership in ubin shared by nparks, sla, obs and npcc. Pulau ubin is neither a nature reserve nor a wildlife sanctuary.
  • Ian Turner in 1997 found 207 plant species on ubin. Today, 565 native species (albeit some introduced by nparks).
  • Rare plants on ubin include the collared fig (looks like franghpani but has figs) and the seashore nutmeg.
  • Plant records from ubin: 254 new records of native plants for ubin, 69 rediscoveries, 1 new record for singapore
  • Mammals, reptiles and amphibians, 36 new records for ubin, 1 presumed extinct.
  • Birds: 71 new records for ubin, 1 new record for singapore. Butterflies: 109 new records for ubin, 4 new records for singapore.

Bian Tan speaking now on alien plant species in singapore

  • Characteristics of invasive spp: fast growing, fast reproducers, fast dispersers, tolerant of range of env conditions, opportunistic
  • How do we determine invasiveness? How invasive is invasive?
  • Incorporate into environmental education messages regarding the dangers of invasives

3rd last talk! By tony o’dempsey, chair of vertebrate study group. Fresh water swamp forest of the sungei seletar catchment.

  • Plants of the swamp forest: nutmegs, Sterculias, Syzygium papillosum, Alstonia pneumatophora, Alstonia spatulata
  • Freshwater swamp forests of singapore’s past were converted to reservoirs, residential areas, and other land uses

The 2nd last speaker is ding li on the recent trends of nationally threatened birds in singapore.

  • 376 bird species in singapore, including residents and migrants. 146 resident species. 70 species have gone extinct.
  • Improving trends for about 20 bird species in singapore including the blue-crowned hanging parrot, grey-headed fish eagle (at least 10 adult males in s’pore)..
  • bird species that have not showed changes in numbers: crested serpent eagle, cotton pygmy goose, spotted wood owl..the changeable hawk eagle, straw-headed bulbul (iucn globally vulnerable), purple heron, little grebe.
  • Consistently not recorded: white bellied woodpecker, and other mostly forest birds

The final talk! is on albizia woodlands and singapore birdlife, by dr ho hua chew and dr shawn lum

  • Albizia is from east indonesia, it is a fast growing tree, can grow 7m in 1 year
  • Albizia can be pioneer species which provide shade for undergrowth species, some of them native
  • Albizia woodlands can be breeding or nesting sites for resident raptors esp white bellied sea eagle, changeable hawk eagle, greyheaded fish eagle
  • List of known nest sites for white bellied sea eagle: 7 out of 15 so far are albizia woodlands
  • But wb sea eagles are not fussy nesters, can nest next to a busy road.
  • Changeable hawk eagle, 18 known nest sites, 13 of which are albizia woodlands
  • Grey headed fish eagle: 5 known nest sites, 4 of which are albizia woodlands
  • Birds found in albizia woodlands: Asian drongo cuckoo, common hill myna, rufuos woodpecker, banded bay cuckoo
  • And that marks the end of the conference.

Thanks for reading 🙂 now to rest my fingers..

  • @crunch_ranjani hahaha i am so sorry!!! And yea my fingers kinda ache nowz
  • @VaranusSalvator heh thank you!
  • @crunch_ranjani haha awesome! That’s what i like to hear 😀
  • to my new followers, thanks for the follow lol i hope my tweets made sense, was trying so hard to keep up *cracks knuckles*
  • live-tweeting was kinda fun. nice to know the past 10 years of sms-ing have come in useful.
  • at least 50% of the credit should go to @green3birdy for letting me parasitize on her phone when mine was about to die
  • @uaoh haha yes i am genuinely interested in plants now!
  • @green3birdy lol tell me you were inspired by me to join twitter 😛
  • @cubismwonder you’re most welcome 🙂
  • @green3birdy hahaha.it’s a service called tweetsg.you sms to a regular hphone no., regular sms charges apply. tweetsg.posterous.com
  • @sivasothi @green3birdy haha ok! yeah marcus deserves much of the credit too for egging us on 🙂
  • @yoonhuilian dunno, 10+ years of smsing? hahaha.
  • @VaranusSalvator @yoonhuilian haha well it wasn’t nearly 10 hours this time, maybe 6+ after factoring in the breaks? but thanks! 🙂

“I’d rather have passionate Singaporeans than apathetic ones” Tan Chuan-Jin, in his maiden speech to parliament

Tan Chuan-Jin, the Mnister of State of the Ministry of National Development reflects on his experienced on the ground in his maiden parliament speech yesterday.

His speech includes:

Co-Creating Our Future

  • “Can we have a better life for our children and ourselves? We can. I know we can. We’ve had a remarkable run. Not perfect, but in the cold light of day, quite a significant achievement to be where we are presently.
  • This Government is not perfect and there are things that we can do better and to improve and we will do our utmost to do that. But we stand for a belief that we will serve our people and our nation faithfully. To serve without fear or favour, and to have courage to do what is right.
  • The inclusive growth that our President shared is really about all of us being in this together. To play a part and to fight the good fight as one nation, as one people. It is a journey that we must walk all together.
  • Will there be tensions? Yes, and that is to be expected. It is important that our MPs challenge us as it keeps us on our toes and help distil better policies. In fact as Dr Lim Wee Kiak shared, I am also hard-pressed at times when we’re not watching to distinguish friends from foe, but I think that’s a good thing.
  • Is it uncomfortable? Yes. But it is for the good of our country that we see this development, the debate and the challenging of ideas.
  • In a recent conference on biodiversity in NUS7, I was struck by the passion shown by our young Singaporeans. I encouraged them to pursue their passion to care for and fight for the environment because these are a part of our heritage and history as well. I know that it will create tensions for us in MND because we need to deal with the developmental needs for our people. But I’d rather have passionate Singaporeans than apathetic ones.
  • We are engaging stakeholders on issues like the future of our Rail Corridor8, animal welfare matters9, FDW issues10 very early in the policy making process. The outcomes are still not fully determined. We have broad parameters, but we want our people to co-create these policies. I believe that this makes sense and we need to see how this evolves over time.
  • We need to continue to tap on the views of stakeholders out there. Singaporeans. We need to co-create our own future in Singapore. Step forward, walk with us on this journey to build something special and meaningful for all Singaporeans.”

Read it in entirety to see the other issues he covers: Speech by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower at the Parliamentary Debates on President’s Speech, 19 October 2011, 5:00 PM, Parliamentlink.

Mok Ly Yng on “Horsburgh Lighthouse: 160th anniversary” (Sat 15 Oct 2011)

From: Mok Ly Yng
Subject: Horsburgh Lighthouse: 160th anniversary

Hi everyone,

Today (15 Oct 2011, Sat), or rather tonight, marks the 160th anniversary of the start of regular operations of the Horsburgh Lighthouse. The lighthouse, which is located on Pedra Branca, started daily operations on 15 October 1851 (Wed).

Horsburgh Lighthouse was named after James Horsburgh, the Hydrographer of the East India Company from 1810 to 1836.  John Turnbull Thomson was the architect, engineer and surveyor of the entire project.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Pedra Branca is Singapore’s territory on 23 May 2008.  As we are using the decimal number system, it is quite common to mark significant ‘multiples of 5’ (or 10) anniversaries.  This year (2011) is therefore significant as it is the first ‘multiple of 10’ anniversary (decennial) since the ICJ decision of 2008.

I’ve mentioned in earlier emails that the year 2011 is filled with events and anniversaries.  Singapore spent quite a bit of effort and resources on the ICJ Pedra Branca case but when this significant anniversary (at least to me) comes along, nothing, silence.  So, I thought another short email story is in order.  At the very least, it can raise some awareness about the anniversary.

A ‘Notice of Mariners’ was issued prior to the commencement of regular operations of the Horsburgh Lighthouse.  It was published in the local newspaper on 6 October 1851.

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 6 October 1851, Page 1
Click for the complete document.

This notice took about two months to arrive in London.  The London Gazette published the same Notice to Mariners on 19 Dec 185:

London Gazette - gaz_21274_19Dec1851_p3510_p2_of_34_HorsburghLH1851
London Gazette, 19 Dec 1851, p3510
Click for the complete document.

As I read more about the personalities involved in the Horsburgh Lighthouse, I found that there are a few more significant ‘multiples of 5 or 10’ anniversaries in 2011 :

Y.A. (Year)

  • 225 (1786): In May, while on a journey from Batavia to Ceylon, James
    Horsburgh was shipwrecked on the island of Diego Garcia. This influenced his decision to make accurate charts for navigation.
  • 215 (1796): Horsburgh granted command of the ship Anna.
  • 205 (1806): In March, James Horsburgh was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
  • 190 (1821): On 10 August, John Turnbull Thomson was born at Glororum
    farm, Northumberland, England.
  • 175 (1836): On 14 May, James Horsburgh died.
  • 170 (1841): On 26 Oct, Thomson appointed first Government Surveyor of Singapore. On 1 Nov, Thomson took charge of the Survey Dept in Singapore. Field work commenced 7 Nov.
  • 165 (1846): On 17 Aug, Thomson (with Congalton) published chart of the Straits of Singapore.
  • 160 (1851): On 27 Sep, Horsburgh Lighthouse completed and light first lit. On 15 Oct, regular operations began.
  • 155 (1856): On 6 Feb, Thomson arrived in Auckland, New Zealand.

Y.A. = Years Ago

Full extent of the ‘Survey of the Straits of Singapore’ by Samuel Congalton and John Turnbull Thomson. First published in 1846 and updated in 1855 to include the Horsburgh and Raffles Lighthouses.

Title block from Thomson’s ‘Straits of Singapore’ map. Originally published on 17th August 1846, it was updated in 1855 to include the Horsburgh and Raffles Lighthouses. By 1855, Thomson had left Singapore for good, never to return. The original publication date would become Indonesia’s Independence Day 99 years later.

The ‘Survey of the Straits of Singapore’ map was printed on two halves. No copies of the original 1846 edition of the western half are known to exist today. Both the 1846 and 1855 editions exist for the eastern half. What we call ‘Middle Rocks’ today (see 1855) was known as the ‘South Rocks’ in the 1846 edition.

Some more details about Thomson after the Horsburgh Lighthouse was completed.  By 1853, Thomson was feeling very unwell and he was granted medical leave in England.  Half-pay was granted provided his leave of absence did not exceed 15 months.

Thomson left Singapore on 1 Sep 1853 (Thu) on the Ganges bound for Galle in Ceylon.  He returned to Singapore on 3 Nov 1854 (Fri) on the Singapore from Galle.  He was away for 1 year, 2 months and 2 days, just a few weeks short of 15 months.  He claimed for and presumably received his half-pay upon his return to Singapore.  He visited his hometown during his leave in 1854.  He also had a town map of Singapore published in London in 1854.  This is a rarely known map today as the reprinted copy in existence in the Singapore museum and library does not have the place of publication nor Thomson’s name printed on it.

After Thomson’s return to Singapore, he tried to seek and apply for another government post.  But nothing was available and Thomson was rather disappointed.  He was not well yet and he decided to leave Singapore for good this time.  He resigned from his government surveyor post and left Singapore on 23 Feb 1855 (Fri) on the Singapore bound for Malta.  Back in Britain, he again visited Northumerland and the Scottish borders.  Sometime in 1855 when he was back in the UK, he updated the 1846 chart of Singapore Straits which he had published with Samuel Congalton.  But by 1855, Congalton had passed away (in April 1850).

On 26 Oct 1855, he departed England from Gravesend on board the barque Ashmore.  On 6 Feb 1856, the unaccompanied Thomson arrived in Auckland, New Zealand after a journey of 105 days.

‘Earnslaw’ farm, north of Coldstream in Berwickshire, Scotland. Thomson’s grandfather’s farm. His grandfather was James Thomson, the laird of Earnslaw. JTT would name a mountain in NZ Mount Earnslaw. But before he went to NZ, there was an ‘Earnslaw’ on Singapore maps during JTT’s time in Singapore, from about the late 1840s to the early 1850s. It was located near or at Caldecott Hill, somewhere near the present site of MacRitchie Reservoir along Thomson Road. [Map: 1:2500 Sheet XXII.12 (Swinton). OS Map of Scotland. Surveyed 1858, published 1862. NLS.]

Thomson’s grandfather had a farm named ‘Earnslaw’ in Berwickshire, Scotland.  In the late 1840s and early 1850s, the name ‘Earnlaw’ appeared on Singapore maps, presumably named by Thomson himself.  The ‘Earnslaw’ was located at the hilly area close to or at Caldecott Hill.  It was located quite close to Logan and Brown’s hills and estates in the area.

When the Straits of Singapore chart was published in 1846, the feature known as the ‘Middle Rocks’ was known as the ‘South Rocks’.  By 1855, ‘South Rocks’ had become ‘Middle Rocks’.

The University of Otago (in New Zealand) holds the paintings of Thomson.  If you go to this website [http://digital.otago.ac.nz] and search for ‘John Turnbull Thomson’, you’ll find the 203 paintings by Thomson in the collection.  As I went through the paintings, I found one entitled ‘Bass Rock’.

Title: Bass Rock (near North Berwick, Scotland). Watercolour on paper by John Turnbull Thomson. Undated, but most probably 1878 when he visited England and Scotland for the last time.

The Bass Rock in the background with myself in the foreground. Candid photo taken from Tantallon Castle lookout point sometime in 1995, by a German friend. The signboard reads ‘The Bass Rock’.

It brings back many pleasant memories.  I was not able to find the photos which I took of my visit there but I did find one which was taken by a friend.  At that time, I had no idea that the area was Thomson’s homeground.

Here are some web sites with more details on the Horsburgh Lighthouse, and the people and places mentioned above:

Horsburgh Lighthouse:

  • Wikipedia:
  • Infopedia, National Library of Singapore – link
  • James Horsburgh – link
  • John Turnbull Thomson – link
  • Samuel Congalton – link
  • Bass Rock – link
  • Tantallon Castle – link

Map extracts and pictures here: [link]

I hope you find this email of some interest.  It has again been written in much haste to meet the 160th anniversary deadline of 15th October 2011.

Best regards,

Mok LY

Goodbye Steve, thanks for the wings

The Apple ][ computer entered my life in 1981 in secondary school and in 1988, out of the army and in NUS, I discovered the Macintosh. Eventually I owned a series of laptops from 1992 to the present, acquiring a new one about every five years.

Macs went from marginal to mainstream and enhanced everything I’ve been involved in.

So inspiring has the experience been that MacAddicts from my mailing list, ME@N, have gathered on and off since 1999 to talk. We meet again this Friday.

So it was tough to hear the inevitable this morning, which Macaddicts have been bracing ourselves for.

Steve Jobs has passed on, RIP. Twitter is flooded with memories now.

Thanks for the wings, Steve.

Twitter - Steve Jobs RIP

Obituaries – LA Times, MacWorld, NY Times.