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Friday, January 28, 2022

Mystery of Orange Arctic Goo Solved! Again! Sort of.

[photo from NOAA]

Those of you who have been breathlessly awaiting reports on the orange goo that washed up on the shores of the northwestern eskimo village of Kivalina, Alaska will be interested to hear the latest report, and that the mystery is closer to being solved. I deliberately didn’t say you’ll be “happy” to hear the report, because frankly, the latest scenario is creepier than the last one.

At first, no one had any idea what the stuff was. All they knew was that nobody ever had seen anything like it in Kivalina or anywhere else. All they knew was that a thousand gallons or more of mysterious orange slime was covering not only the Wulik River and lagoon, but had also appeared in buckets used to collect rainwater. While algae experts were called in, fertile minds were at work coming up with explanations.

First we found out it was not an algae.

Then we were told that after examination under a microscope it appeared to be crustacean eggs. Sounded reasonable, and they sure looked like eggs… But unless there was some new species of flying tanner crabs, or aerial shrimp, it seemed unlikely that eggs would end up in rainbuckets.

So now, after flying the goo to the east coast for further examination, we have yet another determination that is even more unsettling to some than tiny winged lobsters. They are spores. Fungal spores. They are so small that they can’t be seen as individuals with the naked eye, yet thousands of gallons of them have been flying around the remote Alaskan village and settling out to be discovered on the surface of water.

Spores. Fungus. Yikes.

And here’s where it all gets mysterious again. Nobody has ever seen these spores in Kivalina before, and not only that, nobody anywhere has seen them. No one has a clue what they are except that they are likely spores of a genre of fungus known as “rust fungus” that turns the plants it feeds on a rusty color. There are, apparently almost 8000 species of rust fungus that they know of, and many more presumed to be undiscovered.

The substance quickly dissipated from the village lagoon and the Wulik River. But many of Kivalina’s 374 residents worried about the long-term effect on the water quality — and some wildlife, fish and plants they use for food — from a phenomenon they had never seen before. There was a report of dead minnows found in the lagoon the night the substance appeared.

City administrator Janet Mitchell said those fears will only intensify with the latest analysis, which did not include toxicity tests. She herself is troubled about the community’s dwindling reserves in village water tanks that will need to be topped off.

“We are going have more concern from the public,” she said. “If I’m concerned, then there will be others with concerns.”

Stay tuned for more goo information as it becomes available.



24 Responses to “Mystery of Orange Arctic Goo Solved! Again! Sort of.”
  1. We-uns and Us-uns get rust in cereal grains and soybeans at various times. I suggest throwing the stuff in a body of water and if they don’t drown,burn them at the stake. Funny this stuff is back in the news right after Christine-I am not a Witch-Odonnell huffed off Piers Morgan’s show.Coincidents? I think not-therefore I am not.

  2. Gindy53 says:

    I wouldn’t get too complacent about fungi….

  3. GoI3ig says:

    Spores mutated perhaps from chemicals released at the nearby “Red Dog” mine?

  4. WakeUpAmerica says:

    I wonder if it is related to the orange fungus we see on sage brush and other plants here in the CA desert. That fungus looks more hairy than gooey, however.

  5. Zyxomma says:

    OK, so it’s a fungus among us. And it’s orange. Now, the question is, is it edible? By whom?

  6. Bob Benner says:

    Probably has something to do with global warming… Just saying…

  7. Fungus?? really? Wow! I wonder what the next step is? Are they going to do toxicity tests on them? hmmm fungus. I will be really interested to see what the next development in this kinda sorta not a mystery now we know is fungus of unknown origin 😀

  8. I See Villages From My House says:

    I thought it was man-made for sure, is it kind of a relief that it is natural? I’m glad it wasn’t in my backyard.

  9. laurie says:

    Could they be something previously found only under glaciers that has now been exposed due to climate change?

    • Juneaudream says: There’s..a thought!! 😉

    • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

      Not particularly likely because of the several organisms which we know of that live in glacial environments none are basal glacier inhabitants. Moreover, the melt out process is slow and progressive and unlikely to produce a bloom of some exotic gacial fungi. More probable is something that was always present but due to unusual conditions was able to become ultra abundant for a short time and creat an anomaly.

  10. slipstream says:

    It’s aliens, I tell you. Those innnocent looking spores are only the beginning. Next it will be tea bags hanging from hats. Then pit bulls with lipstick. And if you don’t believe me it’s probably because you are one of the Pod People already.

  11. hjmler says:

    also known as “the brain-eating amoeba”

    • PollyinAK says:

      Wow. That was an interesting read. People died after being exposed to water from ponds, lakes, fresh water…and even affected tap water. Scary.

    • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

      and how exactly does this relate to the identification of fungal spores? Protozoans are not fungi.

  12. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    Interesting – fungal spores are generally exremely small and as noted there are probably many thousands of species of fungi that have not been isolated and classified. Such spores are ubiquitous in the environment so unless and until something can be cultured that proves to have a toxic characteristic or proves to infect mammals, fish, etc. I wouldn’t be overly concerned. That is unless there is something else going on we haven’t heard about. The spores themselves are just the reproductive stage of the mature fungi whatever it is. The problem will be figuring out how to culture them, what medium, under what conditions, etc. Then they can be considered from the standpoint of what ill effects they might manifest.

    On the bright side (sort of) this is yet another example of the flasehood that government is the problem or did I somehow miss the news reports of all the private firms scrambling to be the first to figure out what these organisms are and whether they pose any risk to the local community?

  13. LA Brian says:

    I grew up with those periodic locust cycles, so I was ready to cheer for the extremely fertile crustacean theory. Then I learned about the buckets. Ew.

    This may also sound like a dumb question, but what was the weather like the night this (pardon the pun) went down? Is there a chance that something normally airborne, albeit someplace far, far away, was simply “washed” down with the right level of precipitation?

    • Juneaudream says:

      A very plausible situation..airborne spores..from somewhere amazingly distant from the village…carried 100s, 1,000s of miles..and then..’downdrafted’ to speak.

  14. I believe that somewhere a science fiction writer is already at work turning this into their next book. The setting, the science, the unanswered questions – it is already a page turner!

    Seriously though, I sympathize with Kivalina and hope someone helps them resolve the toxicity issue SOON.

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