Jenny Greenleaf was happy that it was lastly heat sufficient to go barefoot when she and her husband took their common stroll alongside York seaside in Southern Maine this week.
But after they returned to their seaside chairs and started to brush the sand off their toes, they observed that their usually pale soles had been a deep black.
“I’ve by no means seen something like this,” Greenleaf, a guide designer and artist, stated. “It was nearly like I walked by charcoal.”
At house they showered and scrubbed their toes, however the smudge, which was neither slick nor greasy, would solely partly come off.
Along Maine’s southern coast, in addition to in neighboring New Hampshire, many others had been additionally struggling to take away darkish stains from their toes.
“I nonetheless can’t get it off,” stated Kyra O’Donnell, who has had black toes since she visited Great Island Common seaside in New Hampshire, about 14 miles south of York seaside, Sunday.
Robin Cogger, parks and recreation director within the city of York, stated she had fielded about 100 calls and emails about stained toes this week. Similar studies on social media got here from as far south as Gloucester, Massachusetts, and as far north as Wells, Maine, a span of greater than 70 miles. Theories abounded. Algae and oil had been frequent ones.
“In Hawaii, the sand can flip black from volcanic fuel, however no volcanoes in Maine so it’s most likely one thing gross,” one man wrote in an area Facebook group.
Greenleaf had a fringe idea, which even her personal husband scoffed at, that concerned a submarine she had seen within the space.
“Maybe that submarine belched out a cloud of nastiness,” she stated.
On Wednesday, Jim Britt, a spokesman for Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, supplied the possible reply: Millions of tiny black kelp flies that feed on decaying seaweed appeared to have died on one stretch of seaside.
“It’s not identified why,” he stated. “Nature does loopy stuff. This may be a type of cases.”
The insect carcasses, which appeared to have washed ashore, include a naturally occurring pigment, he stated.
Efforts had been underway to determine the actual sort of kelp fly, which must also assist reply the place they got here from. Regardless, stepping on them doesn’t pose any well being points, Britt stated.
He couldn’t reply whether or not it will be unhealthy for canines to eat them, a query that some had been asking on social media.
Linda Stathoplos, a retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographer, did her personal casual examination of the sand on Wells Beach in Southern Maine on Tuesday, accumulating a pattern and it below a microscope.
“There had been tons and tons of little bugs, in regards to the dimension of a tip of a pin,” she stated. Some had two wings. Others had 4. “They had been undoubtedly all lifeless.”
She couldn’t keep in mind ever listening to a couple of related mass “mortality occasion” of flies.
Neither might Joseph Kelley, a marine geologist on the University of Maine.
“I’ve labored on the geology of seashores for 40 years on the Maine coast and by no means seen something like this (or heard about it elsewhere),” he stated in an electronic mail.
On Facebook, seaside vacationers with tainted toes listed all of the methods they’d tried to get the stain off. Neither dish cleaning soap nor child wipes had been notably profitable.
Greenleaf inadvertently found a foot-cleaning resolution throughout a subsequent stroll. She and her husband had returned to the seaside after a rain to search for clues. Although the search was fruitless, by the tip of their stroll the sand and stones had buffed the stains away. “Our toes had been spotless,” she stated.