Scientists found 'golden egg' deep in sea near Alaska. But what is it? The unusual, soft, golden material was discovered last week by the National Oce

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Scientists found 'golden egg' deep in sea near Alaska. But what is it?
The unusual, soft, golden material was discovered last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Adela Suliman
Published Sep 08, 2023 • 4 minute read
A golden egg was found by researchers off the southern coast of Alaska. Courtesy of NOAA Ocean Explorer
A golden egg was found by researchers off the southern coast of Alaska. Courtesy of NOAA Ocean Explorer PHOTO BY COURTESY OF NOAA OCEAN EXPLORER /Courtesy of NOAA Ocean Explorer
A smooth golden orb has been found deep at the bottom of the Alaskan seafloor – and marine scientists admit they have no idea what it is, although they speculate it could be the “egg casing” of a mysterious creature.


The unusual, soft, golden material was discovered last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which studies the ocean, atmosphere and coastal regions of Earth, during a mission to map unexplored deepwater habitats off the coast of Alaska using remotely operated vehicles.


Scientists were both intrigued and excited by the Aug. 30 discovery, while openly admitting they were baffled by what it could be, according to a live-streamed feed of the mission. Viewers online, meanwhile, joked it could be the egg of an alien or a predator – or that it reminded them of a chocolate egg.

“It’s definitely got a big old hole in it,” says one researcher on the live stream. “So something either tried to get in or tried to get out.”


As scientists mused over whether it was an “egg case,” “encrusting sponge” or “coral,” some also joined in the fun, with one joking: “I just hope when we poke it, something doesn’t decide to come out … It’s like the beginning of a horror movie.”

“When our collective knowledge can’t identify it, it’s something weird,” one NOAA Ocean Exploration team member said. “What kind of an animal would make an egg casing like that?”

“While somewhat humbling to be stumped by this finding, it serves as a reminder of how little we know about our own planet and how much is left to learn and appreciate about our ocean,” Sam Candio, NOAA Ocean Exploration coordinator for the expedition, told The Washington Post Thursday.

A golden egg was found by researchers off the southern coast of Alaska. Courtesy of NOAA Ocean Explorer
A golden egg was found by researchers off the southern coast of Alaska. Courtesy of NOAA Ocean Explorer PHOTO BY COURTESY OF NOAA OCEAN EXPLORER /Courtesy of NOAA Ocean Explorer
NOAA admitted that the finding had “struck an imaginative chord for many watching,” with its official research account saying scientists were “trying to crack this golden egg mystery!” and calling on the public to send through their ideas.


“At first glance, it’s possibly the remains of an egg case of an invertebrate animal, or perhaps a slightly mangled sponge,” Jon Copley, professor of Ocean Exploration and Science Communication at the University of Southampton, told The Washington Post after looking at images Thursday. He also sought to reassure the public, saying the orb was “certainly nothing that should worry us.”

Deep ocean discoveries like the egg still have the potential to “catch people’s attention” and spark unique fascination because the deep ocean isn’t as accessible as the sky and space, Copley added. “We often find things in the deep ocean that we haven’t seen before or don’t immediately recognize, because the deep ocean is vast and we’ve only been exploring what lives there over the past couple of centuries, unlike life on land.”


Such discoveries help in “renewing our sense of wonder at how amazing nature is, all around us,” Copley said, though he emphasized that some of the “lifeforms we brush past everyday are just as weird and wonderful as anything we find in the deep ocean.”

“Without detailed examination and analysis of the specimens obtained we don’t know what this strange object is,” said Daniel Jones, associate head of ocean biogeosciences at the United Kingdom’s National Oceanography Centre. “But it highlights the diversity of life in the world’s deep oceans that remains undiscovered and the importance of scientific exploration.”

Meanwhile, the NOAA Ocean Exploration team hopes to eventually solve the egg mystery.

The team used a remote vehicle to “tickle” the egg, revealing it had a soft, skinlike texture. They then used a gentle suction machine to remove the egg from its rock for further study.


However, while scientists were able to successfully collect the orb from the seafloor and bring it onto the surface, NOAA expedition coordinator Candio said, “we still are not able to identify it beyond the fact that it is biological in origin.” He added, “we likely won’t learn more until we are able to get it into a laboratory setting.”

The dive is part of the “Seascape Alaska 5” expedition, which began Aug. 23 and will end in Sept. 16 in the Gulf of Alaska, using the NOAA Okeanos Explorer ship, according to NOAA, which is live-streaming the expedition.

The mission uses the ROV’s and multibeam sonar mapping technology to explore depths ranging from 200 to 6,000 meters deep, it added. It aims “to explore deep-sea coral and sponge habitats, fish habitats … and to improve knowledge of past and potential geohazards.”

Candio said such finds were “exciting” and new species have the potential to reveal “new sources for medical therapies and vaccines, food, energy, and other societal benefits and knowledge.”

“Isn’t the deep sea so delightfully strange?” Candio added. “Who knows what we will discover next.”
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