The mystery owner of the USB drive found inside a thawed slab of frozen leopard seal poop in New Zealand has been revealed.
Amanda Nally, a self-proclaimed seal enthusiast, told New Zealand television show “The Project” on Wednesday that she was shocked when some of her favorite footage of playful sea lions playing in the water appeared on the nightly news.
“The minute The Project promo came up, I was walking from one room to another and went ‘Holy s***, that looks like …” she said.
“I feel bad here because I feel like I’m ruining a really good story. The truth is I am quite seal-focused and I found the leopard seal out at Oreti Beach, and I’m guessing I dropped the USB stick in the seal poop on the beach.”
The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said they found the USB memory stick in reasonable condition when they thawed a large slab of leopard seal poop – known scientifically as a scat – that had been in a freezer for more than a year.
When the memory stick was plugged into a computer, they found amazing footage of sea lions at Porpoise Bay and a video of a mother and baby sea lion “frolicking in the shallows.”
The organization said the scat containing the memory stick was collected in November 2017 at Invercargill's Oreti beach.
Nally told Motherboard via email that she is a volunteer beach walker with the New Zealand Sea Lion Trust and that during a walk at Oreti Beach, she spotted a sickly-looking leopard seal. She believed this was the same seal whose poop contained her USB stick for more than a year.
“How the USB stick on the seal poop remains a quandary – the scientist who unfroze the sample are adamant it was too enmeshed to have simply been dropped in it as it were,” Nally said. “It was surrounded by feathers and small bird bones, so they thought it may have been accidentally dropped by me, then picked up by a seabird, which was in turn eaten by a leopard seal, which was then found by me.”
She told Motherboard that she did a huge double take when she saw the footage flash up on the local news bulletin.
"Sounds like an incredible chain of coincidences but sometimes life is stranger than fiction," Nally said. "New Zealand beaches are not exactly littered with sea mammals, so I count both these experiences as pretty special."