A 10-foot by 6-foot chunk of debris that washed up on an Ocracoke Island beach over the weekend has prompted an investigation into its origin, including the possibility that it’s part of an aircraft or rocket.
The National Park Service, which manages the beach where it was found, told the Charlotte Observer in an email that it has contacted both the U.S. Coast Guard and Elon Musk’s SpaceX “to see if they can determine what the item is.”
SpaceX manufactures and launches rockets and spacecraft, according to the company’s web site.
The chunk of debris was so large, the park service said it needed a front-end loader to move it. The ragged sheet of metal is now in storage at the park, in anticipation of a response from the Coast Guard or SpaceX, park officials said.
Chris Charlton and his wife, Angie Chris Langdon, of Currituck, told the Charlotte Observer they spotted the object Sunday near Ramp 67 on Ocracoke Island, which is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
“I had not heard of any aircraft missing or being down recently so I wasn’t really sure what to think,” Langdon said. “I was very curious to try and find out what it was and where it came from.”
She sent photos to Sam Walker, a reporter with the Outer Banks Voice, who speculated in an article that it was “parts of the fuselage from an aircraft.”
Langdon said she also contacted the Federal Aviation Administration about the object.
If the debris turns out to be part of a rocket, it would be the second time in a year that space debris has washed up on the Outer Banks.
The Virginian-Pilot reported last year that a 15-foot-long section of a SpaceX rocket was found in October on a beach near Hatteras Village. “SpaceX officials saw reports of the debris on Facebook and confirmed the fairing belonged to them,” the newspaper reported.
The latest discovery may have been helped ashore last week by storm surge associated with Tropical Storm Michael, which brought flooding to some parts of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Hurricanes often result in strange objects washing ashore on the North Carolina coast.
A volunteer firefighter reported finding multiple World War II armor-piercing projectiles, bullets and shrapnel lodged in the sand at Topsail Island the first weekend of October, reported the Charlotte Observer. He speculated Hurricane Florence washed the weaponry ashore.
Days later, the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network reported an even larger object made of foam-like material was found on South Carolina’s Seabrook Island. Its origin was never identified.