Carlsbad police got a strange call Friday morning about "a suspicious large metal object with an orange tip that washed ashore. The shape of a missile."
In fact, a Carlsbad police spokeswoman told NBC 7 on Friday, the brightly colored cylindrical device found not far from where Carlsbad Boulevard intersects Cherry Avenue is an oceanographic survey device, information later confirmed by Mike Buckley, a public affairs officer with Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab, the owner of the device.
"It's an oceanographic instrument for scientific research," Buckley said. "We use it to study the ocean environment," adding, "It's a research instrument that poses no danger to the public."
At the time he spoke with NBC 7 on Friday afternoon, Buckley was unable to describe the worth of the device, what, exactly it was being used for or where it had been deployed and for how long.
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A scientist from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said it may be an Argo oceanographic research float, and that there are thousands of such devices floating around the world's oceans, operated by dozens of countries, including the U.S., Japan, New Zealand, Mexico and many others.
According to UC San Diego, Argo is "is an international program that collects information from inside the ocean using a fleet of robotic instruments that drift with the ocean currents and move up and down between the surface and a mid-water level…. The name Argo was chosen because the array of floats works in partnership with the Jason earth observing satellites that measure the shape of the ocean surface. (In Greek mythology, Jason sailed on his ship Argo in search of the golden fleece)."
Hours after the device washed ashore, a crew of state park rangers and Carlsbad lifeguards assembled near Carlsbad Lifeguard Tower 34 to hoist the device into the back of a white state parks pickup truck and drive it away.
It wasn't clear to Buckley, yet, if the device had been recovered by the lab workers, but he did say the university's team was working to get its hands on it. He did say that the lab had likely been contacted Friday by the folks up in Carlsbad using information displayed on the device.
"They'll be analyzing what happened," Buckley said, "along those lines."