So, the mystery has been solved! That piece of “trash” we found up in Alaska was a weather balloon!
Thank you Kirstin, for your extensive research involving (gasp!) PDFs. We’re not actually sure whether it was used for “turbulence soundings” but details, details! Email me directly to collect your free book!
And, while we’re at it, I’d say Conrad’s very educated guess of a “submarine on the bottom and a cruise ship in the top” is actually not too far off, if you think of the stratosphere as the ocean. So email me, Conrad, and I’ll send you a free book too!
Thank you both for your excellent sleuthing/guessing!
It turns out that the MYSTERIOUS styrofoam box and the MYSTERIOUS wires were part of the “RADIOSONDE,” which still sounds mysterious but which is actually a small kind of computer that measures different things as the weather balloon travels up into the sky. It sends this information back to earth with a radio signal, and then scientists use the information to figure out what the weather is going to be like.
The “secret message” is just a return bag with directions to put the radiosonde in:
and some information to fill out so that the scientists know where the weather balloon was found:
It sounds like the scientists hope the radiosonde is in good enough condition that they can reuse it. I’m not so sure. This one looked PRETTY rusty.
But we packed it up anyway and mailed it last week – and included a note asking for any more details. We promise to share them when we get them!