When mysterious orange goo washed up onto the shores of a remote Alaskan village last Thursday, the residents of the tiny Inupiat Eskimo outpost were puzzled. Now, scientists have found an answer - at least in part.
According to a news release from NOAA scientists at the Juneau laboratory, the mysterious orange goo is actually a mass of microscopic eggs.
The team, led by NOAA scientist Jeep Rice, first set out to identify if the substance was animal, vegetable, or mineral.
"It was easy to see cellular structure surrounding the lipid droplet, and to identify this as 'animal'," Rice said in the release. "We have determined these are small invertebrate egg."
But where do the eggs come from?
Well, scientists aren't exactly sure - and that's worrisome to the 374 residents of Kivalina, a town located at the tip of an 8-mile barrier reef along Alaska's remote northwest coast.
Scientists' best guess is that they are some kind of crustacean eggs or embryos.
The team took samples of the mysterious orange material that locals found floating in their harbor, beaches, buckets set out to collect rainwater, and even in a river 150 miles away.
"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," Rice said in the release.
While the goo has more or less dissipated, residents are concerned nonetheless.
"It seems to be all gone," city administrator Janet Mitchell told Fox News. "But if they're microscopic eggs, who's to say they're not still in the river?"
Also, because the goo turned powdery once it dried, residents are worried that it may have gone airborne and contaminated their crops.
Not one person in the small Eskimo outpost can remember witnessing such a phenomenon before and scientist have no idea why the unidentified eggs washed up where they did - or where they came from in the first place.
According to NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle:
"We'll probably find some clues, but we'll likely never have a definitive answer on that."
For now, the residents of Kivalina and the scientists at the NOAA lab in Juneau are waiting to hear back from another lab in South Carolina that specializes in phytoplankton blooms.
"We are sitting on the edge of our seats wanting to know," added Speegle.
Until then, the orange goo remains an unsolved mystery.