Orange goo near remote Alaska village ID'd as eggs

Aug 09, 2011 By RACHEL D'ORO , Associated Press
Orange goo near remote Alaska village ID'd as eggs (AP)
This Aug. 6, 2011 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a magnified close up of a sample of orange gunk tested by NOAA scientists in Juneau, Alaska. Samples of the substance were collected last week in the remote village of Kivalina, Alaska, and were determined to be some kind of microscopic eggs. (AP Photo/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Mandy Lindeberg)

(AP) -- Scientists have identified an orange-colored gunk that appeared along the shore of a remote Alaska village as millions of microscopic eggs filled with fatty droplets.

But the mystery is not quite solved. Officials with the said Monday they don't know for sure what species the are, although they believe they are some kind of crustacean eggs or embryos. They also don't know if the eggs are toxic, and that worries many of the 374 residents of Kivalina, an Inupiat Eskimo community located at the tip of an 8-mile barrier reef on Alaska's northwest coast.

There's been at least one report of dead minnows found in the lagoon of the the night the eggs appeared last week. Residents also are worried about the community's dwindling reserves in village water tanks even though the orange mass has dissipated from the lagoon and Wulik River, said city administrator Janet Mitchell.

"It seems to be all gone," she said. "But if they're microscopic eggs, who's to say they're not still in the river?"

Scientists also don't know why the unidentified eggs suddenly emerged on the shores of Kivalina last week. Villagers say they've never seen such a phenomenon before.

"We'll probably find some clues, but we'll likely never have a definitive answer on that," NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said.

Samples are being sent to a NOAA laboratory in Charleston, S.C., for further analysis. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation also sent samples Monday to the Institute for at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Kivalina residents live largely off the land, and many are worried about the effect on some wildlife and plants from the goo, which turned powdery once it dried - and probably went airborne. Mitchell said some people went berry picking over the weekend, but couldn't tell if the goo was on the fruit, called salmonberries, which are the same color of the eggs. The caribou are in the region now, but she doesn't believe the migrating animals pose much risk as a food source.

The eggs were found on at least one roof and in buckets set all over the village to collect rain water. City Councilwoman Frances Douglas said the gooey, slimy substance was widely spread in streaks along the Wulik River and the lagoon, which is a half mile wide and six miles long. Orangey water was reported from as far away as the village of Buckland, 150 miles southeast of Kivalina.

Douglas estimated the volume of eggs she could see "in excess of a thousand gallons, easily."

The weather last Wednesday, when the bright substance emerged, only intensified the effect, according to Douglas.

"We had an overcast sky, so it really, really stood out," she said. "You couldn't miss it for nothing."

Even village elders don't recall anything like it, said Douglas, who has lived all her 44 years in Kivalina. She remembers temperatures were colder in her childhood, gradually rising over the years. She wonders if that has anything to do with the invasion of the eggs.

"With climate change, anything can happen, I guess," she said.

Speegle called the climate change theory "purely speculative."

Explore further: Polyethylene mulch, glazing create optimal conditions for soil solarization

5 /5 (6 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ban turtle eggs trade in Malaysia: WWF

Aug 03, 2011

Conservationists Wednesday urged Malaysia to impose a national ban on the trade and consumption of turtle eggs to ensure the survival of the marine creatures.

Hundreds of dinosaur nests found in India

Oct 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Geologists have discovered hundreds of fossilized nests each containing clutches of eight dinosaur eggs. The eggs were located in sand banks in Tamil Nadu in Southern India.

Global warming affects Alaska

Aug 23, 2006

Global warning is changing Alaska, eliminating tourist sights such as glaciers, and with melting ice causing rising waters to flood villages.

Researcher shows eggs are eggs

Jun 16, 2006

A Harvard Medical School researcher's claim that women might someday be able to generate new eggs appears to have been exploded.

Recommended for you

How photosynthesis changed the planet

Nov 20, 2014

Two and a half billion years ago, single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria harnessed sunlight to split water molecules, producing energy to power their cells and releasing oxygen into an atmosphere that ...

From dried cod to tissue sample preservation

Nov 19, 2014

Could human tissue samples be dried for storage, instead of being frozen? Researchers are looking at the salt cod industry for a potential tissue sample drying technology that could save money without sacrificing tissue quality.

Riding a food fad to an opportunity

Nov 18, 2014

Until a couple years ago, Shaun Paul's knowledge of chia was limited to the kitschy terracotta Chia Pet figurines. But recently, chia seeds, promoted as a nutritional powerhouse, have earned a growing consumer ...

User comments : 9

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

fmfbrestel
not rated yet Aug 09, 2011
are they toxic? -- I don't know, but maybe mash em up and run them through a mass spectrometer?

what species are they? -- cant they hatch a few??

how about file a report when you actually know something?
Techno1
not rated yet Aug 09, 2011
Do a full DNA fingerprint analysis, and even if it is an unknown species, at least catalog it:

"Unknown orange alaskan Goo eggs," etc.

That way, some day someone might later find the species and discover what it is after a DNA fingerprint...
natetuvkok
5 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2011
it could be from the ocean but how did so many get in the air to be rained down? new insect species.. very interesting to me i live in alaska.. alien terraforming..lol..microscopic though hope it's not to bad.
NickFun
not rated yet Aug 10, 2011
They look like caviar. Maybe pretty tasty! Why don't they hatch them and find out if they're even from this planet!
ROBTHEGOB
not rated yet Aug 10, 2011
Looks like salmon eggs to me.
yyz
not rated yet Aug 10, 2011
I wonder if there is any relation to the "red rain" of Kerala, India in 2001: http://en.wikiped...n_Kerala

There the reddish color of the rainwater was found to be due to a large concentration of spores from a local lichen-forming algae. Images of the two look somewhat similar.
natetuvkok
not rated yet Aug 10, 2011
I wonder if there is any relation to the "red rain" of Kerala, India in 2001: http://en.wikiped...n_Kerala

There the reddish color of the rainwater was found to be due to a large concentration of spores from a local lichen-forming algae. Images of the two look somewhat similar.

it could be but it was floating on top of the water http://upload.wik...bark.JPG this look like it kinda
Switch
not rated yet Aug 14, 2011
Give me $50000.00 and I'll eat a tablespoon.
yyz
not rated yet Aug 19, 2011
AP is reporting that the "orange goo" has been ID as spores from a (as yet unidentified) species of rust fungi: http://www.google...2b80ee0d

The toxicity of the spore clusters has yet to be determined, but one of the scientists in the article stated he "would definitely filter these spores out" of water sources. Sounds like good advice in any case.

If confirmed, this case does sound similar to the "red rain" of Kerala (see link in my previous post).

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.