ORONO, Maine — The mystery of the missing mollusk innards is over, as the preserved scallop guts mistakenly placed in the wrong vehicle make their way to a UMaine research facility in South Bristol.
An associate professor with the University of Maine was traveling to Orono on Monday afternoon after a visit to Pemetic Elementary School in Southwest Harbor. She made a pitstop at Somesville One Stop to grab a bite to eat.
The teacher, Abigail Garthwait, didn’t know that while she was inside, a local scallop diver placed the preserved bivalve bits in her backseat, mistaking her vehicle for one belonging to a graduate student he meant to meet there.
He’d been collecting the material for six months as part of research project for the Darling Marine Center, a UMaine research plant in Walpole, a village of South Bristol.
Garthwait got back in her vehicle, a blue Chevrolet Impala belonging to the UMaine Motor Pool, and kept driving. She had to refuel in Orono and it was there, around 5 p.m., that she noticed the two buckets labeled “formaldehyde.”
“I saw those buckets and said, ‘Where the heck did those come from?’” she said Wednesday.
Garthwait assumed the buckets had been in the backseat all along, perhaps left over from the last university employee to use the motor pool car, and that she’d simply not noticed them. Another university employee thought it might be best to throw them away, but Garthwait asked her to hold off.
“I figured it would be better to leave them in the car rather than take them out, because whoever left them there would track them back to the car,” she said.
On Tuesday, the diver’s wife, Michelle Mays, contacted local police departments and spoke with reporters about the missing scallop guts. They represented six months of labor and research lost if they weren’t recovered, she said.
News of the missing scallop guts spread quickly Tuesday on Facebook. Garthwait saw the links early Wednesday morning and started telling friends who had posted them: “It was me. I have the scallop guts.”
The teacher called Mays, and as of Wednesday morning the guts were on their way to Walpole.
Mays was relieved her husband’s work had not been in vain, undone by a simple mistake, and she noted the role of social media in locating the missing research material.
“It’s a happy ending,” she said Wednesday morning. “She [Garthwait] said this is because two of her friends reposted my story on Facebook. So thank you, Facebook.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.
An earlier version of this story contained an error. An associate professor with the University of Maine was traveling to Orono on Monday afternoon, not Saturday afternoon, after a visit to Pemetic Elementary School in Southwest Harbor.