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Researchers find mysterious ‘golden egg’ on sea floor
Featured Image Credit: NOAA Ocean Exploration

Researchers find mysterious ‘golden egg’ on sea floor

The unidentified object has left researchers puzzled as they investigate its origin

NOAA Ocean Exploration researchers stumbled upon a mysterious object comparable to a ‘golden egg’ while diving on a seamount in the Gulf of Alaska.

The incredible discovery was made last month on August 30, 2023 when mission personnel used remotely operated vehicles to dive on a small seamount in the Gulf of Alaska. The team were aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer when they came across the incredible sight.

The 'golden egg' found on the seafloor off the Gulf of Alaska.
NOAA Ocean Exploration NOAA Ocean Exploration, Seascape Alaska/Twitter

At first, NOAA referred to the unidentified object as a ‘yellow hat’, but after closer inspection, it was renamed a ‘golden egg’ or ‘golden orb’, which does actually sound a lot more impressive.

The object was found while the researchers were using their remotely operated vehicles which glided over a rocky outcrop at a depth of around 3,300 meters (2 miles).

“Amid a smattering of white sponges, this smooth, gold, dome-shaped specimen, a little over 10 centimeters (4 inches) in diameter, was tightly adhered to a rock. A small hole or tear near its base revealed a similarly colored interior,” NOAA said in a press release on its site.

“As cameras zoomed in, scientists were stumped as to its identification, with initial thoughts ranging from a dead sponge attachment, to coral, to an egg casing.”

Researchers are still stumped about the origin of the golden egg and although it may seem like the enchanted goose from Jack and the Beanstalk laid one of its golden eggs onto the Alaskan seafloor, that is not the case.

"Isn’t the deep sea so delightfully strange?” said NOAA Ocean Exploration’s Sam Candio, expedition coordinator for the Seascape Alaska 5: Gulf of Alaska Remotely Operated Vehicle Exploration and Mapping expedition.

This unidentified specimen was found in situ on a rocky outcropping at a depth of about 3,300 meters (2 miles).
NOAA Ocean Exploration, Seascape Alaska.

He continued: “While we were able to collect the 'golden orb' and bring it onto the ship, we still are not able to identify it beyond the fact that it is biological in origin. We likely won't learn more until we are able to get it into a laboratory setting where we can continue to pull from the collective expertise of the scientific community with more sophisticated tools than we are able to maintain on the ship.

“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.”

Candio noted that it is still unclear if the golden egg is associated with a known species, new species or ‘perhaps represents an unknown life stage of an existing one’ per the press release.

He elaborated: “New species have the potential to reveal new sources for medical therapies and vaccines, food, energy, and other societal benefits and knowledge. Collectively, the data and information gathered during this expedition will help us close gaps in our understanding of this part of the planet, so we can better manage and protect it.”

Topics: Alaska, Science, US News