Black goop identified as algae
By KYLE HOPKINS
A sample of the giant black mystery blob that Wainwright hunters discovered this month floating in tthe Chukchi Sea has been identified.
"Filamentous algae," he concluded.
"It means it's just stringy."
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."
It could have been discharged from a river, he said, flushed out by runoff from spring break-up and melting ice. But that's just speculation, Whitledge warned.
The North Slope Borough took samples of the stuff too, for a separate round of testing, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer.
The results of the state's analysis came in at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. It was the last day on the job for Meggert, the retiring on-scene coordinator.
"Had it been petroleum, then we really would have had our work cut out for us," he said.
That was the initial fear -- that an oil spill had appeared in the Chukchi Sea, or maybe the blob was oil bubbling up from a sunken vessel or underwater seam.
The goo didn't fit any pattern that made it easy to identify from afar, Meggert said. "First of all it was at the end of the Earth. Pretty hard to get to.
"While we've seen some algae bloom from time to time, we really haven't seen something quite like this."
The color, in particular, didn't make sense, he said. You might expect to see green or reddish algae, but not this black, viscous gunk. Whitledge, with the university, said one possible explanation is that the algae has partially decomposed into a darker hue.
He looks forward to the university examining the sample too, to identify exactly what kind of algae it is.
It's worth noting that Alaska Natives in the region reportedly hadn't seen anything like it before, he said.
But asked if the blob's surprise appearance could be connected to global warming, Whitledge hesitated to draw a link.
"The water's actually very cold this year compared to other years."
A mysterious glob of unknown material up to 12 miles long has appeared off Alaska's northern coast. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer says, "It's certainly biological. It's definitely not an oil product of any kind."
A bucket of a mysterious substance, which the Coast Guard has determined is not oil, was collected off shore of Barrow. Analysis has determined it to be algae.
Click to view image: 'Blk-Goop-1'
Click to view image: 'Blk-Goop-2'
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