Oh boy! Mystery orb on Japanese beach was just a buoy

No spying here!
Loukia Papadopoulos
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Much ado about nothing! The mystery object was just a buoy.


A giant metal ball that washed up on a Japanese beach and made headlines around the world has been confirmed to be just a simple buoy.

The rather large sphere drifted ashore in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture seeing officials in hazmat suits cordoning off its new resting area.  Speculations then surfaced that it might be an old seaborne mine or some sort of instrument for spying.

The police proceeded to X-ray it, confirming that it was not explosive, while experts announced it was a non-spying buoy.

“It’s just a normal buoy,” Uwe Send, an oceanographer with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, said in an interview with the Japan Times.

Send added that such buoys were quite common and could be seen on Pinterest. Oceanographers use different types of buoys for many kinds of research so the oceans are full of them.

Buoys such as the one that caused such a stir in Japan are typically made of steel and are often used for mooring ships in harbors or at sea as they float on the surface.

A common device

Send added that the frenzy surrounding the Hamamatsu buoy struck him as weird, considering the devices are commonly used in ocean research and maritime shipping.

“Maybe everybody is paranoid because of balloons,” he said.

There have been similar cases of research buoys washing up in Santa Barbara, California, and Miami in recent years, Send explained. But those had painted phone numbers on them indicating in writing their source.

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However, in the case of the Hamamatsu buoy, its exterior was too rusty and had no visible markings making it difficult to determine its origins, told the Japan Times Hiroyuki Yagi, an official at Shizuoka Prefecture’s River and Coastal Management Bureau.

“We rarely have objects on the beach, aside from driftwood,” he added.

Shigeru Fujieda, an expert in marine debris at Kagoshima University added that the fact that the device was not covered by shells or seaweed indicated that it probably hadn’t traveled very far. It had likely been designed to anchor a ship.

Its size also indicated that it was not used for research purposes.

“Those buoys were slightly bigger than a basketball,” he said. “Not this big.”

What will happen to the buoy now that its nature has been revealed?

“The ball is going to be scrapped eventually,” Yagi further told the Japan Times.

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