While many of us are still snoozing, the Manly Bold and Beautiful Swim Squad are up and out there, and also contributing to our research.

Every morning at 7 a.m., a group of about 150 enthusiasts gather together on Manly Beach then swim to Shelly Beach (about 1.5 km return). Winter or summer, rain or shine, they don’t miss a beat. And for their trouble they are rewarded, not only by sharing an adventure and exercise with some like-minded friends, but by encounters with swimmers of quite a different kind.

Giant Australian Cuttlefish
Who is looking at who? Encounters with Giant Australian Cuttlefish are a regular occurrence. These curious molluscs often raise skin flaps over their body to mimic and hide among the large green kelp Eclonia. Image: Nick Dawkins
© Nick Dawkins

Mark McGrouther (Collection Manager, Ichthyology), Steve Keable (Collection Manager, Marine Invertebrates) and I are regularly rewarded too by reports and pictures of their latest sightings.

I have a passion for cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopus) and get a lot of pleasure in receiving beautiful images of these creatures in my inbox later in the morning with a, ‘Hey, look at what we saw this morning’, or ‘What do you think they are doing?’. Some will even appear in a book on cephalopods that I am currently working on! While sitting at my desk it is a delight to know that just across the harbour, the animals that we study here at the museum are going about their business.

Giant Australian Cuttlefish
Giant Australian Cuttlefish Image: Nick Dawkins
© Nick Dawkins

The observations of the group also give us valuable information of a kind that can only be gathered by regularly getting in the water with these creatures. We can get a picture of the times of year that certain animals appear in the Bay, ‘Saw the squid again today’ and when they are breeding, ‘These cuttlefish are clearly in love.’.

We have also learnt about the appearance of unusual jellyfish and anemones floating on pumice. By swimming there regularly and being familiar with the usual or common inhabitants, the Bold and the Beautiful can let us know if they see something out of the ordinary and we can help with identifications. It is a two way flow of information that we all benefit and learn from. Just wish I could join them!

Dr Mandy Reid
Collection Manager, Malacology

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