Space isn’t the only final frontier. There’s a lot we don’t know about the ocean depths and the creatures that live there. A NOAA ocean expedition spotted a mystery from the deep during a remote-controlled vehicle dive in the Gulf of Alaska in late August. The camera captured a strange, shiny golden object, leading to speculation as to what it was. It remains unidentified.
NOAA described the object as a “golden orb,” saying it “struck an imaginative chord” for viewers watching a livestream of the dive on August 30. The stream featured a camera feed from an ROV deployed by NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer at a depth of about 2 miles. The shiny object had a hole in one side, as if something had gone in or out.
The stream featured researchers discussing the sighting as it happened. “I don’t know what to make of that,” one of the team members said. The scientists came up with some possible explanations, including that it might be related to a sponge, a coral or an egg casing.
The team decided to take a closer look. The ROV is equipped with a grabber arm and a suction tube. First, they poked it. “I just hope when we poke it something doesn’t decide to come out,” one team member said. “It’s like the beginning of a horror movie.” Another likened it to something from sci-fi show The X-Files.
Fortunately, no horror movie unfolded. The ROV’s robotic grabber “tickled” the orb and found it was soft on the outside. The team deployed the suction tube and determined the orb was a bit more solid than expected. It took some effort to get the object into the tube, but some shaking got it to go down.
The orb looked strange in its natural habitat, but it appeared to be even more bizarre once it was on the ship. A photo of the specimen out of the water shows a shiny, hand-sized blob that may have layers to it.
The Seascape Alaska 5 expedition kicked off on August 23 and runs through September 16. Researchers are investigating and mapping unexplored deep habitats and seamounts in the Gulf of Alaska. A seamount is an underwater mountain that extends steeply up from the seafloor. Data collected from the expedition will help researchers better understand the marine habitat and how it should be managed to protect species, geology and potential resources.
While an egg casing might be the leading idea for identification of the orb, it’s not a certainty. “Unfortunately, the on-ship team has not been able to identify the ‘orb,’ and it is likely we won’t know more about it until after the sample can be taken to a lab for further examination,” NOAA Ocean Exploration spokesperson Emily Crum told me over email.
If it turns out to be an egg casing, that would lead to a new question: What laid the golden egg? The mystery remains for now.
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Jessica Irvine is a tech enthusiast specializing in gadgets. From smart home devices to cutting-edge electronics, Jessica explores the world of consumer tech, offering readers comprehensive reviews, hands-on experiences, and expert insights into the coolest and most innovative gadgets on the market.