New Zealand scientists discover memory stick in frozen seal poo

Friday, 08 Feb, 2019

Scientists in New Zealand say they uncovered a still-functioning USB stick from some animal seal poop last month. In other words, an external hard-drive temporarily became an internal hard-drive.

WTF?! USB sticks can be resilient pieces of hardware. Either way, not the most magical visual.

Samples are frozen. This particular sample had been frozen in November 2017, before they got around to analyzing it in January 2019, according to a NIWA statement.

Now Hupman, a research scientist at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, wants to reunite the USB drive with its owner.

The device was in reasonably good condition, so after leaving it to dry out for a couple of weeks, its contents were examined.

LeopardSeals.org, a group of volunteers that studies the animals, has a whole webpage dedicated to the ins and outs of seal scat collection.

"I hoped that maybe it was something really interesting like someone's long lost wedding photographs or something and someone was really missing them but to our surprise it came back with seal photos", Dr Hupman told 6PR Breakfast.

They included instructions for how to identify and safely collect leopard seal scat, which they said is "good as gold" for researchers.

The weird case of the USB drive began on Oreti Beach in November 2017, a windswept stretch of sand flanked by dunes on the southern tip of New Zealand's South Island.

The only clue to help locate the mystery owner is a "data dump" of holiday pictures, including video filmed from a blue canoe or kayak in the waters around South Island.

The team checked out the memory stick and found images of wildlife taken at Porpoise Bay, which, The New York Times noted is nearly 60 miles from where the feces was collected.

Researchers analyse seal faeces to assess the health and diet of seals in New Zealand waters.

A sea lion is pictured on the beach in Sandfly Bay near Dunedin, New Zealand, on September 21, 2011.