God’s creation offers limitless opportunities for humility.
On Aug. 30, for instance, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered a strange golden object attached to the Pacific Ocean floor two miles below the surface off the coast of Alaska.
“I don’t know what to make of that,” one scientist said upon seeing a close-up of the object.
KING-TV in Seattle uploaded a five-minute video of the encounter to its YouTube channel.
In the video, NOAA scientists could be heard bandying theories as to the object’s nature. At one point, for instance, a female scientist returning from lunch sounded baffled about the object.
“My first guess would have been sponge, but I don’t know what I’m looking at,” she admitted.
A male colleague then briefed her on prevailing theories.
“We’re all over the place at the moment. Started with dead sponge attachment. Moved on to potentially coral. Now we’re thinking egg case,” he said.
Indeed, the egg case theory had supporting evidence, for the video showed a relatively large hole suggesting that something had broken into or out of the object.
Less than a minute later, a mechanical arm from a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) made contact with the object.
“It seems pretty delicate,” the female scientist said.
Shortly thereafter, the still-baffled female scientist described it as “not like any sponge that I can think of.”
Eventually, the scientists succeeded in retrieving the object. That, however, did not lead to identification.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the “mysterious blob” puzzled even the expedition’s coordinator, Sam Candio. In a statement, Candio called the object “biological in origin” but could provide no additional details.
Candio’s Seascape Alaska 5 expedition was scheduled from Aug. 23 through Sept. 16. The NOAA described the expedition as a mission to “Map, explore, and characterize ecologically and economically important deepwater habitats in unexplored regions off Alaska.”
Such expeditions often produce surprises. Nonetheless, deep-sea ecologist Kerry Howell from the University of Plymouth in England noted that those surprises nearly always allow for at least some kind of identification.
“What’s unusual about this thing is we’re not even sure what it is,” Howell said according to Smithsonian Magazine. “Is it an egg, is it a sponge, what is it?”
The scientists in the video had no idea. Nor did those who examined it on the surface. As one would expect, they all approached the object with appropriate curiosity but also in obvious bafflement.
In fact, even the various phrases used to describe the object might conjure wildly different mental images.
One scientist, for instance, called it a “yellow hat.”
On the other hand, Smithsonian Magazine referred to it as both a “golden orb” and a “mysterious blob.”
Thus, when we cannot even characterize an object except to call it “biological in origin,” we know we have stumbled across something in the natural world that — like the rest of God’s creation — should leave us feeling humbled.
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