Object retrieved from ocean on East Beach remains a mystery
Westerly — It might be part of NASA's Lunar Lander, a nautical instrument that defies identification or a sign of the impending arrival of aliens.
But no clear answer emerged from the ocean alongside the pieces of a twisted, barnacle-speckled metal object that had been buried under sand and water at East Beach.
"It's a mystery, it hasn't been solved," said Peter Brockmann, president of the East Beach Association, which led the effort to remove the object.
A crowd of locals staked out spots on the sand early Thursday morning, swapping their own theories and watching as a crew from Sacco Enterprises Inc. drove an excavator into the breakers to retrieve the object.
The unidentified object had captivated the imaginations of residents here after a blurry picture of what turned out to be a small piece of it was published in The Westerly Sun, sparking speculation about what it could possibly be.
"I bet it fell off a ship," said Bill Colprit, a Westerly resident who stood in the crowd watching the pieces pile up.
Some spectators chose to embrace the mystery. Westerly residents Gus Kellogg, 12, arrived at the beach with his dad, Charley Kellogg, and carried a sign that said "I ❤ Aliens."
An avid science fiction fan, Gus Kellogg said he believed the aliens probably look like the creatures from the Netflix show "Stranger Things."
"Hopefully, (this) will put Westerly on the map," Gus Kellogg said.
Gus and Charley Kellogg went out into the water earlier in the week to take a look but couldn't see anything under the sand, Charley Kellogg said. As the pieces came ashore, Gus Kellogg examined them and concluded the object "seems to be some sort of alien landing device."
David Roth, whose property abuts the beach next to where the object was found, said he's had people ask him if he used any machinery on his property that somehow ended up in the ocean.
For his part, he speculated it was leftover from work that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did off the coast a few years ago. "I think it's something to do with an NOAA instrument," he said.
Despite the rapid pace of speculation, removing the object was a slow process. The plan, according to Pete Sacco of Sacco Enterprises, was to dig around the object and try to haul it out of the deep sand with a chain.
A few residents anchored boats in the shallow water to catch a glimpse of the work.
But as the excavator fought the sand and surf, retreating from high waves a few times, it became clear that the object was "much wider than we thought," Brockmann said.
Back on the beach, he and others speculated how the pieces might fit together and worked to assemble their best guess. Officers from the Westerly Police Department stood by, making sure the curious onlookers didn't get too close when the excavator dropped off pieces.
It appeared to have eight aluminum or stainless steel legs, each three or four feet long, which elevated a hub a few feet off the ground.
Many had speculated that the object was the mount to an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, which organizations like the NOAA use to measure ocean currents at different depths. The mount is usually mounted to the seafloor, and could have become dislodged at some point.
But even two scientists at the University of Rhode Island said after looking at the whole thing, it's less likely.
The mounts usually are kept very close to the ground to ensure they can measure as much water as possible, said John King, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography.
"I really have no idea," King wrote in an email.
Gus and Charley Kellogg were skeptical, too.
"I think it's very far-fetched ... why would an alien leave an NOAA device?" Charley Kellogg said.
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