Steve Hornsby lives in Bournemouth, England, and as a former aircraft engineer he’s probably not the type to get swept up in weirdo speculation. Which is good, because after a freak hailstorm he discovered a bunch of blue, gelatinous spheres in his yard. The balls, which were little more than an inch wide, have no smell, do not dissolve in water, and aren’t particularly sticky. The one thing people don’t seem to know about them is what exactly they are, or how they got in Hornsby’s yard.
Hornsby’s own theory about the spheres is that they are a result of atmospheric pollution. He says that bits of airborne nastiness coagulated, like hail, into the weird balls that eventually fell on his home. Sort of like acid rain, but weirder. For the moment, he’s keeping the spheres and sphere fragments in a jam jar in his fridge.
In their coverage of the story, the BBC quoted Josie Pegg, a research assistant at Bournemouth University as speculating that the spheres might be eggs from marine invertebrates. She said:
“These have been implicated in previous ‘strange goo’ incidents,” she said. “I’d have thought it’s a little early for spawning but I suppose we’ve had a very mild winter. [...] The transmission of eggs on birds’ feet is well documented and I guess if a bird was caught out in a storm this could be the cause.”
While that is plausible, it does rely on a rather unlikely string of events. The Doubtful News blog has a different, and perhaps more likely, answer. They believe that the spheres are hydrogel balls, which are sometimes used for planting seeds or keeping fresh cut flowers hydrated. From Doubtful News:
As advertised, these are described as “Crystal Soil” – a new type of green environmental material, rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and others; can be used as long as 2 years; can absorb water up to 50-100times of its original weight, and after expansion it looks colorful and brilliant.
Of the three solutions put forward, this seems the mostly likely. Hydrogel balls, when dry, are extremely small and could have easily fallen into Hornsby’s yard without his noticing where they quietly absorbed water and grew in size. The freak hailstorm was then entirely coincidental, its only role being that it gave Hornsby a reason to hunt around in his yard for hailstones, instead finding the hydrogel balls.
Pure speculation, of course, but perhaps Hornsby had better better watch out for more signs from above.
- Dead birds fall from the sky
- …just like they did last year in the same town
- 20 tons of dead herring wash ashore in Norway