Some people call it “goo” – others think it looks like clear globs oftapioca pudding.But so far, nobody knows for sure what the clear globules are that have beenshowing up in Lake Superior over the past few days.

Swimmers have noticed them floating in the water off Park Point. JeffGunderson, associate director of Minnesota Sea Grant, collected samples ofthe globules off Park Point and Brighton Beach. Although some of it has beenexamined under microscopes, biologists have not yet been able to determinewhat the goo is. “We don’t know if it’s organic or inorganic yet,” he says.

Jeff Schuldt of the National Resources Research Institute, describes the gooas “transparent, gelatinous spheres” that are not quite as big as peas, andsays, “We’ve looked at it under a microscope, and there doesn’t appear to beany kind of animal inside of it. I don’t know what inorganic [substance]would form a shape like that, but I don’t want to guess what organic wouldbe making that much slime, either.”

Nobody who has swum in Lake Superior amid the globules, including Schuldt,has reported any adverse effects from it. Biologists are reasonably sure thegoo isn’t fish eggs, Gunderson says. “If it were a fish egg, there would besome cells dividing in there. We’re not seeing any definition in therewhatsoever. There’s such a huge volume of it in so many places. It’s like analgae bloom, but it’s not algae. I’m going to pursue it with the chemistrydepartment at the University of Minnesota (UMD) to see if it’s a protein.”

Schuldt and others were researching fish and water quality, when some youngswimmers asked the researchers what the goo was. That’s when Schuldt begancollecting it for analysis at the research institute. The St. Louis CountyHealth Department has not heard about the globules and has declined tocomment on the reports.

Gunderson has studied Lake Superior organisms for 22 years at Sea Grant andsays he has never seen anything like this. He found similar globules lastweek while out on UMD’s Blue Heron research vessel. Those samples arebelieved to have come from the lake’s bottom in 300 feet of water. He plansto check with biologists on lakes Huron, Michigan and Ontario to see if theyhave seen anything like this.

It’s a little disturbing (not knowing what it is),” Schuldt says. “We’regoing to have to try to identify it somehow.”

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