That big, oily black blob floating in the Arctic north of Alaska? Perfectly natural, say scientists.
"We got the results back from the lab today," Ed Meggert of the state Department of Environmental Conservation told the Anchorage Daily News late last week. "It was marine algae."
No one in the area — whether biologist, Inuit hunter or oil worker — had ever seen anything like the strange stuff, which moved slowly through the Chukchi Sea last week between the towns of Barrow and Wainwright.
It stank, trapped sea birds in its gooey mass and, perhaps most alarmingly, was pretty hairy. And most marine algae is green, yellow or red, not black.
But Terry Whitledge, director of the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said the color might mean the algae was partially rotting.
"Filamentous algae," he said after being e-mailed a photo of the stuff. "It means it's just stringy."