After the flash drive was discovered in the defrosting poo, it took only a day for Amanda Nally of New Zealand to be identified as the rightful owner

By Joelle Goldstein
February 08, 2019 07:47 PM
Credit: The Project NZ

A woman from New Zealand recently learned that in life, not only does s— happen, but so do coincidences that are “stranger than fiction.”

After a mysterious USB drive appeared in a slab of frozen seal poop, scientists were taken aback at the discovery — even more so when they realized the flash drive was still functioning and held precious footage of sea lions frolicking in the water.

Researchers immediately set out to find the rightful owner, and after just 24 hours, Amanda Nally of Southland New Zealand was finally identified.

It all began on Tuesday when researchers at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research were defrosting and studying a slab of leopard seal poo that had been frozen for more than a year, according to the institute’s website.

The leopard seal feces is especially valuable to them, as it can help determine the seal’s health, eating patterns, and how long the animals may have been in New Zealand waters, the website said.

Researchers believed the seal had ingested the plastic electronic memory stick, with one volunteer noting on their site that it was “very worrying that these amazing Antarctic animals have plastic like this inside them.”

However, somehow the USB stick was in working condition and contained footage of seals recorded by someone in a blue kayak and red Duck Boots. So they set out to find the rightful owner of the photos and videos.

Within a day, from the help of social media, news outlets, and global researchers, Nally was finally identified as the person who had lost her memory drive.

The seal-enthusiast claimed her USB after seeing her footage on an episode of New Zealand talk show The Project.

“The minute The Project promo came up, I was walking from one room to another and went ‘Holy s—, that looks like…'” she told the show’s panelists on Wednesday after getting in contact with them.

Nally, who explained the viral fame came unexpectedly, said the poo incident was a complete accident.

“I feel bad here because I feel like I’m ruining a really good story,” she admitted on the show. “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.”

She also told The Project‘s hosts that she was “surprised” more people didn’t come forward with her name as she “bored all my friends and family with that video.”

On Thursday, Nally — who is a volunteer beach walker with the New Zealand Sea Lion Trust — spoke to Motherboard about the incident and further explained how it all came about.

Three days after she filmed the Antartic predators swimming in her kayak, she said she contacted a veterinarian with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in regards to a sickly-looking seal she noticed in the area — the same seal she believes had her USB drive in its poop.

Though she has her own theories, there are still no definite answers as to how the USB stick, which contained her “favorite footage” got dropped in the excrement.

“How the USB stick on the seal poo remains a quandary — the scientists who unfroze the sample are adamant it was too enmeshed to have simply been dropped in it as it were,” Nally told Motherboard.

“It was surrounded by feathers and small bird bones, so they thought it may have been accidentally dropped by me, then picked up by a seabird, which was in turn eaten by a leopard seal, which was then found by me,” she continued to the outlet.

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“Sounds like an incredible chain of coincidences but sometimes life is stranger than fiction,” Nally added. “New Zealand beaches are not exactly littered with sea mammals, so I count both these experiences as pretty special.”

That same day, Nally also shared a post on her Instagram about the “incredible” experience and urged her followers to “save the seals” who are currently listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature endangered list.

“[They are] endangered with a global population of 10,000 and falling rapidly,” she explained, adding, “All the evidence of @leopardsealsnz is that leopard seals are native to NZ #savetheseals”

“oh, and try not to feed them electronics,” she joked at the end of her post. “#epic #pocket #fail”