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Alaskan 'Ice Monster' Sparks Imaginations Online

Alaska's Bureau of Land Management regularly posts photos and videos of flying squirrels, scampering porcupines, majestic moose or dramatic landscapes.

But the video that went up last week was different. It was ominous. It was mysterious. It was ... the Chena River Ice Monster, as captured by a baffled BLM employee.

The video shows a strange, undulating icy shape appearing to move through the water. The video has a dramatic soundtrack and an overlay of a camcorder, but BLM insisted the footage itself was unedited.

Previous videos posted to the Alaska BLM Facebook page have gotten a few hundred views apiece. This one quickly racked up half a million.

After all, the Internet is rife with videos purporting to show strange creatures — and most are easy to dismiss as fakes. But this wasn't a random stranger with a Bigfoot story. This was footage from a government employee, posted on an official site of a land-management agency!

The British tabloids loved it. People and Fox News picked it up.

And everyone wanted to know: What was it?

"We honestly don't know exactly," BLM employees said in the Facebook comments. In the absence of firm intel, the Internet immediately provided an abundance of speculation.

A giant sturgeon?

A lost shark, accidentally upstream? (BLM demurred, noting the river is "practically in the middle of Alaska.")

A Nessie-like sea monster?

A "beavegator," whatever that would be?

A "chunk of moose hide" waving in the current?

A "giant arctic crocodile"?

A "zombie salmon" — which is an actual real-life thing, and we are not making this up — of an unusual size?

A beaver towing logs?

A "monkey disguised as a river monster"?

A seal trapped in a fishing net?

A pike, or a sheefish, or a muskie, or an eelpout?

Well.

No.

BLM Alaska posted an update on Halloween, saying the enthusiastic responses online "show how captivating the mysteries of the natural world can be!"

But the BLM concluded that experts at another federal agency — the Alaska Department of Fish and Game — have "the most compelling explanation."

Which is ... a rope.

An ice-covered rope caught on a pier.

If you'd like to know more about this Alaska-sized letdown, the Alaska Dispatch News has the definitive coverage of the situation.

One expert summed it up in a few blunt words, telling the newspaper that the video might look cool, but the truth is just "not that exciting."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.

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