On Tuesday, scientists in New Zealand announced they’d discovered a working USB drive in a sample of leopard seal poop that they hoped to return to its owner. In a surprise twist, the drive contained photos and videos of frolicking sea lions. Now, the owner of the fecal flash drive has come forward to tell her story.
The researchers at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research were no fools when they posted a blog with a sample image from the USB drive’s content. They explained that the device was found in a scat specimen that had been frozen for more than a year. While they were happy to return the USB stick to its rightful owner on the condition that the owner send them more seal poop. In a matter of hours, the internet did its thing and found that the drive belongs to New Zealander Amanda Nally.
Nally spoke to local outlet the Project about her experience discovering that her long-forgotten gadget had become a viral phenomenon. She said she saw her own video footage on a promo from the Project and immediately recognized it. “I feel bad here because I feel like I’m ruining a really good story,” she told The Project. “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 poo on the beach.”
Nally isn’t so much ruining a good mystery as she is deepening its contours. The NIWA scientists claim the USB drive was “deep inside” the seal poop sample and was collected by a local vet who sent it in to the lab back in November of 2017. “It is very worrying that these amazing Antarctic animals have plastic like this inside them,” the researchers lamented. Did Nally drop the device in the poo or did it survive a seal’s digestive tract and a year of being frozen? Would a seal eat a USB drive? Have you ever seen this seal with an eel stuck up its nose?
Nally told Motherboard that the drive contained some of her favorite footage and she has backups, so the chances of her sending more poop to the scientists seem slim.
Aside from learning that USB drives might be more resilient than we could’ve imagined, there are a couple of other lessons here. A Twitter sleuth named Conor Nolan was able to track down Nally by connecting one image of a kayak that was found on the drive to her Instagram account. The internet is a big surveillance machine and there’s nowhere to hide. The other lesson is you should never plug a random USB drive into your computer. You have no idea what kind of nasty shit’s on it.