‘Just curious to know if anyone knows what this is??! Washed up on Muriwai Beach’ she asked in a post on the Muriwai & Waimauku Area Community Group wall - and some wild guesses flooded in!
One commenter suggested ‘Sea monsters dreadlocks’ while others said ‘beach Christmas tree!’, ‘ufo’ and our favourite - Ursula!
The answer is of course none of the above.
What it turns out to be is a large piece of driftwood taken over by gooseneck barnacles.
Also known simply as goose barnacles, these long tendrils are actual crustaceans which emerge from their shells to feed on tiny morsels of food that float by.
Interestingly, they're actually quite a delicacy in Spain and Portugal. Known there by their local name, percebes, they're boiled in salt water and often eaten as part of seafood platters.