Mysterious black goo drifting off Arctic coast identified as algae

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Washington, July 21 (ANI): A sample of the giant black mystery blob that Wainwright hunters discovered this month floating in the Chukchi Sea has been identified as algae.

The blob is thick and dark and "gooey" and is drifting for miles in the cold Arctic waters.

"We got the results back from the lab today. It was marine algae," Ed Meggert of the Department of Environmental Conservation in Fairbanks told Anchorage Daily News.

Miles of the thick, dark gunk had been spotted floating between Barrow and Wainwright, prompting North Slope Borough officials and the Coast Guard to investigate last week.

A sample was sent to a DEC lab in Anchorage, where workers looked at it under a microscope and declared it some kind of simple plant - an algae, according to Meggert.

The goo fast became an Alaska mystery. Local hunters and whalers didn't know what to make of it.

The Coast Guard labeled the substance biological, but knew little else. The stuff had hairy strands in it and was tangled with jellyfish, according to a borough official.

Terry Whitledge, director of the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was e-mailed a picture of the gunk by a friend with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Filamentous algae," he concluded. "It means it's just stringy," he said.

Whitledge said he doesn't know why an unprecedented bloom of algae appeared off the Arctic coast.

"You'll find these kind of algae grow in areas that are shallow enough that light can get to the bottom. If you had a rocky area along the coast, you could have this type of algae," he said.

According to Whitledge, it could have been discharged from a river, flushed out by runoff from spring breakup and melting ice.

"First of all, it was at the end of the Earth. Pretty hard to get to," Meggert said. "While we've seen some algae bloom from time to time, we really haven't seen something quite like this," he added.

"The color, in particular, didn't make sense. You might expect to see green or reddish algae but not this black, viscous gunk," he said.

Whitledge said one possible explanation is that the algae has partially decomposed into a darker hue. (ANI)

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