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Mysterious orange goo in Alaskan Arctic identified as tiny eggs

August 8, 2011 | 12:16 pm


The mysterious orange goo that washed ashore at the northern Alaska village of Kivalina has made headlines around the world, seeming to vaguely portend some new sign of climate disaster or industrial mayhem.

Not so, though. Scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at Auke Bay in Juneau took samples of the weird orange material that was found floating in the harbor in Kivalina, 625 miles northwest of Anchorage -- and also on beaches, in rainwater and in a river 150 miles away. They concluded it was no man-made nightmare at all.

Rather, it's a large mass of microscopic eggs, researchers concluded, quieting the international alarm.

"We now think these are some sort of small crustacean egg or embryo, with a lipid oil droplet in the middle causing the orange color," said Jeep Rice, a lead scientist at the lab. "So this is natural. It is not chemical pollution; it is not a man-made substance."

Rice said scientists were quickly able to identify a cell structure within the material once they put it under a microscope, meaning they could "identify this as animal."

What kind of animal? Not sure yet, nor can researchers rule out the possibility that the eggs might be toxic -- samples have been sent to a NOAA lab on the East Coast for further testing.

-- Kim Murphy

Photo: The weird orange substance that washed ashore near the northwestern Alaskan village of Kivalina and other areas isn't man-made. Credit: Mida Swan / via Associated Press