Growing up I went to a summer camp for several years that featured the "Swamp Tromp" as the highlight of the week. Basically, we walked through a swamp. I don't know why. I hated it. I just knew a snake was going to come get me. It was not my idea of a good time.

And yet, that's pretty much exactly what we got up at the crack of dawn to do last Saturday. (Granted, dawn cracks at 7 here, so it wasn't obscenely early, but still.)

We joined the International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore. International Coastal Cleanup is a worldwide annual effort (70-100 countries) that aims to remove and collect data on the debris from the shorelines, waterways and beaches of the world's lakes, rivers and oceans. Here in Singapore it's organized by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research of the National University of Singapore.

There were about 25 sites destined for cleanup in Singapore, and we were assigned to the mangrove swamp, or mangal, along the Pandan Reservoir.

Mangroves are fancy trees and shrubs that can live in salt water and they dominate 75% of tropical coastlines. They have elaborate root systems both underground and above ground that shelter oysters, shrimp, and other critters as well as protect from erosion, tsunamis, and storm surge. Of course, the swamp and roots also trap all kinds of junk and garbage that comes in with the tide.

There were 98 volunteers from three different groups on Saturday. Our goals were to pick up and carry out any trash we could find, but also to record what we found so that ICC would have a record of the kinds of trash in each area.

Getting our briefing re: snakes and how the cobras were probably scared away by now. And he was not even joking. Fantastic.

The swamp was absolutely a swamp. This poor girl stepped knee-deep in the mud and pretty much stayed there for the rest of the morning recording the trash her teammates picked up.

We had been warned that whatever shoes we wore would likely be ruined, so Kyle bought some fake Crocs for the occasion. He had more trouble keeping them on than he'd bargained for.

In fact, he gave up at some points. The suck of the mud was too strong.
I, of course, had more appropriate footwear.

It looks like there aren't really any trees in the center of the swamp, but the roots were still everywhere.

Mangroves have air roots, which stick up like breathing straws. You can see them sticking up around my feet. We tried not to crush these too badly.

The most common things we found were the plastic bags that a lot of food comes in here. We found at least 50-75 of those ourselves.

The most interesting thing was Jane Allison's wallet. No cash, but her ID card (she's British) and her CitiBank card. After that, of course, I kept worrying that we were going to find Jane Allison's body. (We didn't.)
After about an hour and a half, we drug our bags of trash out of the swamp, tallied up our counts, and weighed the bags.

All in all, our site collected and removed 1.7 tons of trash including 25 tires. Not a bad morning's work.

(Pictures of us together courtesy of Airani S.)