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The Mystery Rust of Kivalina, Alaska

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Last month a mysterious orange film (“goo” in the media vernacular of the time) washed up on the shores of a northwest Alaskan village called Kivalina. Experts suspected crustacean eggs; locals were unnerved. In retrospect, reports that the substance “dried into a powder” should have been suspicious, as should reports that the orange stuff also appeared on the water in rain buckets. Either the crustaceans really got around, or all was not as it seemed.

An orange powder seems an odd product for the drying of crustacean eggs, but could make perfect sense for fungi — specifically, the rust fungi. And indeed, that is what experts believe them now to be. And yet, for all the gumshoe work, they really still have no idea what they actually were — or what produced such an explosion in a place that had not seen such an event in the memory of anyone living.

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