The mystery of more than 20 unidentified floating objects that washed up on the beach at Florida’s Cape Canaveral space force station was solved when the contents turned out to be more than 60lb of cocaine, apparently lost from a passing trafficker’s boat.
The discovery was made by a wildlife manager who was surveying turtle nests and spotted one of the square packages, bound tightly in plastic wrapping, lying on the sand.
She alerted base security, who in turn called narcotics field officers from the Brevard sheriff’s department. The deputies identified the substance as cocaine worth about $1.2m.
“While I was waiting for them to arrive, I drove a little further and noticed another package, and then another,” said Angy Chambers, a wildlife supervisor with space launch delta 45, a former space wing of the US air force that was renamed last month. The military station is not far from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center.
“I called back and suggested they bring their utility terrain vehicle as I counted at least 18 packages.”
Security teams closed the beach and eventually recovered 24 packages, which were tested, sealed and sent to the US Department of Homeland Security for further investigation.
“We take pride in protecting our base and the surrounding community [과] there’s a higher level of job satisfaction knowing that these drugs will not make it into our community,” said Sgt Joseph Parker of the 45th security forces squadron.
Cocaine packages washing ashore are not uncommon in Florida, which serves as a staging point for large quantities of drugs making their way into the US from South America.
Last month bundles of the drug were found over several days in the Florida Keys, only weeks after an even more substantial haul – cocaine worth about $2m – was discovered bobbing in the water in the same region.
The homeland security special agent David Castro said traffickers traditionally transport cocaine in bales of 25 bricks of 1kg (just over 2lb) each, and an entire bale can be lost at sea if its wrapping fails.
Less frequently, traffickers have been known to toss cocaine bales overboard to try to destroy evidence when being pursued by authorities.
Authorities recover hundreds of millions of dollars of cocaine annually from Florida waters, this year’s effort boosted by a $70m haul by the US coast guard in February.