One of the earliest posts on this blog was written four years ago almost to the week, and on it I shared some photos of a phenomenon I hadn’t been able to find an answer for. This was back when I was living in Madang, on PNG’s north coast, and getting onto- and under- the water was our way of coping with the days. It was an odd tube-like structure, bright purple, about six inches in diameter and almost as long as a grown man. It was made up of thousands of tiny little beads, floating just below the surface of the waves, and was clearly organic in nature. The photos I took of it at the time are here:
Since then, the post has remained one of my more active pages, receiving around 3,000 hits and a number of comments and suggestions from around the globe as to what this thing might be, as well as quite a few people reporting seeing a similar phenomenon. Another reader (Andrew) posted a link to more photos of an object from the Philippines, clearly the same thing.
Finally, in June this year (while I was largely absent from my blog), another reader, Vincent C, said he had seen one of these in the waters off Taiwan. He did some research and, after his initial post, responded with a second comment identifying the ‘thing’ as a “floating egg mass” from the Diamondback Squid, Thysanoteuthis Rhombus, together with a link to a stock photo, which looks more or less identical.
So there you have it, folks: The random mass of floating purple jelly beads is apparently the egg mass of the Diamondback Squid. Mystery solved. A huge Wanderlust shout-out to Vincent C. for figuring out the correct answer, and whose URLs are unfortunately coming back as invalid at this point in time. I am genuinely happy to finally know what it was we stumbled upon all those years ago in Madang Harbour.
I hope you can all sleep a little better at night now.
Post Script: If you’re feeling particularly geeky, you can read some more info on T. Rhombus here. The egg mass described there contained around 180,000 individual eggs, and the hatching took an average of about 57 hours- a pretty rapid development from the sound of things! The water temperature described- 28-29 degrees Centigrade- was pretty much exactly what we had in Madang Harbour.