Alaska’s ‘Orange Goo’ Answer: Eggs

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Auke Bay Laboratories / NOAA Handout / Reuters

These aren’t the kind of eggs you want to scramble or serve sunny side up, that much officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration know. Learning more? That’s still the focus of the investigation into orange goo that gunked up the shores of Kivalina, a remote Alaskan village.

At first, nobody knew quite just what the brightly colored slimy goo was appearing in the water of a tiny town on the tip of a reef on the northwest coast. Now, NOAA officials say the substance is likely millions of microscopic eggs filled with fatty droplets. But don’t think that explanation answers all your questions, as there still isn’t any word on where the eggs came from or if they are harmful to the local marine life or the area’s drinking water.

While experts’ best guesses say the eggs likely are crustacean eggs or embryos, that isn’t yet a fact until a NOAA laboratory in South Carolina can come back with some answers. That is, unless the Institute for Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks beats them to the answer.

(MORE: Mysterious Orange Goo Washes Up on Alaska Shore)

But none of that really helps the 374 residents of the Insupiat Eskimo community a bit worried that the local drinking water source might be filled with these eggs (the Wulik River and a lagoon turned color and orange water was reported up to 150 miles from Kivalina), even though the goo has dissipated within the last week. Also, what is the lasting effect on other wildlife, since the sliminess turned into airborne powder when it dried?

Julie Speegle, NOAA spokeswoman tells the Associated Press they’ll likely never have an answer on what caused the phenomenon. Hopefully they can at least figure out what it was.

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Tim Newcomb is a contributor for TIME. Find him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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