Mystery object?

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by Nicole D
Publish date
29 July 2012
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 Your Question: What is this mysterious object I found on the beach?

One of the most popular services that Discovery Centre provides is identifications. We get asked by members of the public to identify a wide range of unusual objects and specimens on a daily basis. Many are quite straightforward for our experts but others, such as this one, can be trickier. Usually we can tell whether or not something has been made by human hands or is naturally occurring but not always!

Mystery object Mystery object brought into the Discovery Centre for identification
Image: Nicole Davis
Source: Museum Victoria
 

A little while ago one of our enquirers brought in this unusual egg-shaped specimen that he'd found in the Red Bluff cliffs at Black Rock.

  Mystery object Mystery object brought into the Discovery Centre for identification
Image: Nicole Davis
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It was filled with sand and appeared to be a hard material with a thin flexible coating. Due to its findspot at the beachside, the enquirer thought it might be the preserved egg of sea creature, perhaps a turtle.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/usoceangov/5514927530/

We sent the specimen to one of our mammalogists and then to an ichthyologist (that’s someone who studies fish). Both of them confirmed that it definitely wasn’t an egg and, furthermore, was an object made by humans rather than a naturally occurring specimen.

The object then went to our History & Technology curators who speculated on what it might be. Was it a globe, some kind of fishing lure or something else entirely? After having a bit of a look, the staff concluded that it was indeed a light bulb. But it was a very specific type of bulb – one that belonged to an old flash for a camera that might have looked something like this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/captkodak/271841556/

Mystery solved!

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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