Mysterious Mass of Flesh Washed Ashore Baffles Locals and Experts
A pale, lumpen pile of flesh which washed up on the shores of Papua New Guinea has experts baffled. The rotting mass has been dubbed a “mermaid globster” due to its distinctive shape. A globster is defined as “an unidentified organic mass that washes ashore,” and it is indeed unidentifiable. Its origins are “anyone’s guess,” according to environmental scientist Helene Marsh.
The remains washed up on September 20 on the shore of Simberi Island, a small volcanic isle in the New Ireland Province with just 1,000 occupants. Locals, disgusted and mystified in equal measure, photographed the putrid mound of meat and promptly buried it. While that may be good for them, it means that identifying the mermaid globster’s actual identity will be next to impossible.
According to a Facebook post by New Irelanders Only, locals did not properly measure the corpse before burying it, nor did anyone collect DNA samples. This leaves experts hoping to identify the phenomenon through photographs, but even they are hopelessly divided.
“It looks like a very decomposed cetacean to me,” marine mammal expert Sascha Hooker told Live Science. Cetaceans, otherwise known as whales and dolphins, are known to turn the same ghostly white shade as their skin peels away. According to a 2021 study, short-finned pilot whales, spinner dolphins, and spotted dolphins are particularly common in this part of the Bismarck Sea.
Erich Hoyt, a researcher with Whale and Dolphin Conservation in the U.K., agrees that the globster could be a small whale, or possibly a “sea cow.” Also known as dugongs, they’re known to graze in shallow waters off Papua New Guinea.
“My best estimate is that it might be a dugong,” Jens Currie, chief scientist of the Pacific Whale Foundation in Hawaii, told Live Science. Currie believes that, from what’s left of the creature’s head, it’s too small to be a whale or dolphin. “The amount of blubber also indicates a marine mammal and not a shark,” Currie said.
Florida-based marine biologist Gavin Naylor believes the corpse could belong to a shark, though even he concedes that “it is a little weird that all of the skin appears to have rotted off.”
But Gregory Skomal, a marine biologist at the University of Boston, was fairly willing to bet it’s a cetacean. “At first, I was leaning toward a large shark, but now that I’ve spent a bunch of time looking at this, I am more confident it is a cetacean,” he told the outlet. He deduced this based on the shape of its tail and the location of its flippers, as well as the corpse’s vertebrae, which looks closer to a whale’s spine than a shark’s.
It’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure what exactly the mermaid globster is, but hopefully, another will wash ashore and give us the opportunity to dig deeper into its secrets.