Tests from an orange goo found to be washing onto the shores of Alaska turns out to be an egg mass. Found last week it originally brought about pollution concerns but scientist determined it to be a mass of crustacean eggs or embryos. “We now think these are some sort of small crustacean egg or embryo, with the lipid oil droplet in the middle causing the orange color,” Jeep Rice, a lead scientist at the Juneau laboratory, said in a news release.
“So this is natural. It is not chemical pollution; it is not a man-made substance,” Rice said.
The substance was found on the surface of the water in Kivalina, an Inupiat Eskimo community located at the tip of an 8-mile barrier reef on Alaska’s northwest coast last week. The next day it rained, and residents found the orange matter floating on top of the rain buckets, they use to collect drinking water. It was also found on one roof, leading them to believe whatever it was, it was airborne, too.
Residents on Alaska’s northwest coast said they had never seen anything like it before. U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska environmental officials examined it and determined that it was not a petroleum product or other known pollutant. The material is sticky, but becomes a powder when dried, said Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for NOAA’s Fisheries Service in Alaska.
Elders have never heard any stories passed down from earlier generations about an orange-colored substance coming to town. “This is the first for Kivalina, as far as I know,” said 63-year-old Austin Swan, a city council member. Swan helped collect some samples for testing, wading out into the lagoon. “It was really light, a powdery look to it, and it was just floating on there, all bunched up together,” he said. “It looked like it could blow away very easily.” He said some of the material had a sheen to it, like it was oil.
“But I couldn’t feel the oil at all, any texture at all.”
Scientists who made the preliminary identification are confident that they are correct, Speegle said. “I would say we’re pretty darn sure that they’re microscopic eggs,” she said. “We just don’t know what species.” To get a more precise identification, Speegle said, scientists at the Auke Bay lab have sent samples to NOAA’s Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, South Carolina.By: Michael Stevens
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