‘Delightfully strange’: Mysterious golden object pulled from Gulf of Alaska could be new species

SILVER SPRING, Md. — If you’re hoping to find out what the mysterious golden “orb” found at the bottom of the Gulf of Alaska is — you’ll have to wait a bit longer. Scientists at the NOAA say the unknown specimen will undergo further investigation once the current expedition ends this month. They also suggest the finding could be a species never seen before, which would certainly be an exciting takeaway if true.

Researchers operating a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) spotted the shiny mystery roughly two miles deep off the coast of Alaska on Aug. 30.

A team from the NOAA Ocean Exploration Department was left both confused and excited by the sighting. In footage from the find, a member of the Seascape Alaska 5 expedition crew is heard saying, “It’s like the beginning of a horror movie,” while another suggests, “I’m pretty sure this is how the first episode of the X-Files started.”

Upon spotting the orb-like object, the team made suggestions on what it could be, including a yellow hat, an egg casing, or a dead sponge. Full video of the fascinating expedition, which shows a spectacular array of deep sea life, can be seen at the end of the post.

Mysterious golden "orb" discovered on the ocean floor near Alaska
The mysterious golden “orb” is recovered for examination. (Credit: SWNS)

“It’s almost like it was a base and whatever it was on it fell off,” one researcher noted.

“It’s definitely got a big old hole in it, so something tried to get in or get out,” another team member added.

Ultimately, the team decided to suck the specimen up with a special collection pipe and take it to a ship-based laboratory. Emily Crum of NOAA says the “orb” was successfully recovered and taken to NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

A scientist examines the golden orb in a lab.
A scientist examines the golden orb in a lab. (Credit: NOAA / SWNS)

“I just received confirmation from the expedition coordinator on the ship that the orb remains a mystery,” Crum reported on Sept. 5. “Sounds as if they won’t learn more until after the expedition is over and they can take the specimen into a full lab setting.”

NOAA Ocean Exploration’s mission is set to last until Sept. 16. “During the expedition, the team will work to fill gaps in our understanding of the region by conducting focused mapping and remotely operated vehicle operations in waters deeper than 200 meters (656 feet),” the Seascape team says in a media release.

The mysterious golden "orb" has been recovered from the ocean floor for examination.
The mysterious golden “orb” has been recovered for examination. (Credit: SWNS)

Measuring 10 centimeters (4 inches) in diameter, scientists believe it could potentially be a new species. “New species have the potential to reveal new sources for medical therapies and vaccines, food, energy, and other societal benefits and knowledge,” says says NOAA Ocean Exploration’s Sam Candio, expedition coordinator for the ongoing Seascape Alaska 5 expedition, in a statement. “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.”

In the meantime, those of us clamoring for an explanation will have to wait.

“Isn’t the deep sea so delightfully strange?” adds Candio. “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.”

Here’s the clip of the mysterious golden object after it was spotted by NOAA researchers:

YouTube video

Interested in seeing all of the marvelous sights scientists captured during their trip to the bottom of the gulf? You’ll see everything from brilliant octopuses to vibrant starfish to spectacular sea sponges and more!

Watch: NOAA Expedition From Gulf Of Alaska

YouTube video

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South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.

YouTube video


  1. It’s that organic or inorganic thingamagiggy that I dropped overboard on that trip I took a few years ago. Thanks for finding it for me.

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