Virginia faces the Blob, courtesy of Hurricane Irene

Virginia Beach

The Blob appears to be back.

The reports aren't about the jelly-like creature that Steve McQueen battled in the 1958 horror film, but, rather, smelly blobs that have been found in the water and on beaches in Virginia. Perhaps they should be called "the blobs."

"Blob reports" have been flowing into the Virginia Institute of Marine Science since Hurricane Irene swept through the area, according to an institute spokesman. The reports of UFOs, for unidentified fishy organisms, have been going to a website the institute operates.

"Sightings of these grayish, brown clumps along the area's beaches over the weekend caused alarm and curiosity," the Virginian-Pilot reported.

Turns out they’re potato sponges — named so because they look and feel like spuds, David Malmquist, the institute’s director of communications, said in an interview.

The blobs normally live on sandy bottoms in the Chesapeake and were uprooted in large numbers and washed ashore by the hurricane, said Emmett Duffy, an institute professor, in an email.

"Because of their amorphous shape, grayish color, and the fact that they stink pretty badly when rotting on the beach, there was a bit of a scare down here that the piles on the beach were human waste washed up from a ship,'' he added.

The institute, part of the College of William & Mary, received a report of the blobs from as far away as Long Island, N.Y.

"Based on the number of reports we’ve had over the last two weeks, this is obviously a very significant event in terms of potato sponge incidents,"’ Malmquist said.

"Most people don’t want to get close to them because they really smell. They have a very strong rotten egg smell.’"

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--Richard Simon reporting from Washington

Photo: Hurricane Irene left its mark on Virginia's beaches, damaging the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier, as shown here, and uprooting potato sponges that have since begun washing ashore. Credit: AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, L. Todd Spencer

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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