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Space debris identified at Yambuk by the Australian Space Agency

Written by Javed Iqbal

A year-long mystery has been solved after residents of a coastal area took it upon themselves to collect a strange black cylinder wedged into a beach waterway.

Yambuk resident Matt King said he found the unidentified object in September 2021 while walking his dogs along the beach.

He had no idea what the “strange thing” was, but knew it was out of the ordinary in a town known for its beautiful estuary, wild beach, and tall slide.

two men on a large black container
Harry Sokol and Matt King inspect the object for clues.(Delivered)

“It’s quite strange. It’s obviously an expensive container. I don’t know if it’s stainless, wrapped in carbon fiber,” he said.

Curiosity and awareness of marine pollution forced Mr. King to contact Colleen Hughson, a marine plastic campaigner who was awarded Warrnambool Citizen of the Year for her hands-on environmental work.

A man wearing green leather gloves stands next to a black cylinder
Matt King first found the object on the beach at Yambuk.(Provided by: Colleen Hughson)

Ms Hughson’s credentials for investigating strange things that wash up on beaches are well established in the region.

She runs several local beach clean-up teams that document and log endless data on the hundreds of kilos of rubbish that wash up along Victoria’s south-west coast and have found all sorts of strange objects over the years.

A young woman with a camera in front of a large koala puppet
Colleen Hughson organizes clean-up missions along Victoria’s south-west coast.(Delivered: Rosana Sialong)

Ms Hughson said she reported the cylinder to local police (in case it was a bomb), notified the Australian Space Agency, shared a photograph of the object on her social media and then waited for authorities to collect the object.

Meanwhile, people started sending her articles about other space junk found around the world.

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“A lady from Tasmania actually sent us an article about a really similar thing that had landed in Washington on somebody’s farm,” Hughson said.

“It was this composite pressure vessel that contains rocket fuel from the rocket ships.”

A large black cylinder wrapped in shredded material on sand
Matt King found the strange cylinder on the sand at Yambuk.(Provided by: Matt King)

The realization that discarded space objects could re-enter earth without disintegrating sent Ms Hughson down a rabbit hole of information about spacecraft junk deliberately directed to an uninhabited zone in the ocean.

Our ocean space cemetery

A graphic showing spacecraft parts scattered across the ocean floor.
An artistic interpretation of the “spacecraft graveyard” at Point Nemo in the South Pacific.(ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser)

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Javed Iqbal

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