On Jan. 26, this column featured a “what is it?” story about a round object (pictured left) found by Farrah Billings on a Long Beach (Wash.) Peninsula beach. Initial guesses included ambergris (whale barf), the inside of a golf ball or baseball, a black walnut, a seaweed pod or a tar ball. Google’s reverse image lookup proclaimed it is a Christmas Rum Ball. Nope, not likely.
Other good guesses included a sweet gum tree seed pod (Donna Byes) and a spruce tree wood gall worn smooth by the ocean (Josie Tripp).
In desperation, the Ear sent Farrah’s photo to the Oregon State University’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, and was grateful to receive a reply from Melanie Link-Perez. She said they looked through some books about common plants and plant parts that commonly wash up, but couldn’t make a match.
“A physical sample may have been able to let us discern what type of object this is,” she wrote, “but the photos just are insufficient (there is so much degradation that occurs when things are floating).”
Which leaves us with Aaron Webster’s guess as the best bet. He thinks it’s a manganese nodule (pictured, right). Mr. Wikipedia says the nodules (usually 1 to 4 inches in diameter), are “rock concretions on the sea bottom formed of concentric layers of iron and manganese hydroxides around a core.”
So, unless anyone has any better ideas, congratulations Mr. Webster, a manganese nodule it is.