Sunday 25 June 2017

Mystery goo identified as eggs

A magnified close-up of the orange substance found in Juneau, Alaska (AP)
A magnified close-up of the orange substance found in Juneau, Alaska (AP)

Scientists have identified an orange-coloured goo which 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 as officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said they are not sure what species the eggs are, although they believe they are some kind of crustacean eggs or embryos.

They also do not 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 eight-mile barrier reef on Alaska's north-west coast.

There has been at least one report of dead minnows found in the lagoon of the village the night the eggs appeared last week.

Residents are also concerned 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 do not know why the unidentified eggs suddenly emerged on the shores of Kivalina last week. Villagers say they have 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, South Carolina, for further analysis. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has also sent samples to the Institute for Marine Science 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 became powdery once it had dried and probably became airborne.

Press Association

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