Throughout history, random appearances of seemingly odd and unusual sights have led to the creation and propagation of stories of paranormal activities, extraterrestrial visitations, and the existence of fantastic mythological creatures.
The latest entry in this category: the Alaska ice monster.
When a 22-second long video clip surfaced last week of a mysterious object floating in the partially frozen Chena River in Alaska, internet commentators were quick with theories ranging from realistic to fanciful.
The video, which has been viewed more than 600,000 times, was filmed by an Alaska Bureau of Land Management employee in Fairbanks, Alaska, and shows an unidentified object moving about in the current of the Chena River.
Craig McCaa, the BLM employee responsible for the footage, had been taking photos from the University Avenue bridge in Fairbanks in order to document the seasonal landscape changes as ice forms on the river, according to the Daily Mail. When he saw what appeared to be a 15-foot long object swaying in the current, he began filming.
“I initially thought, and several people thought, it could be some rope that snagged on the bottom of the river with chunks of ice,” McCaa told the Alaska Dispatch News. “Other people have mentioned everything from sea monster to giant sturgeon.”
And the theories, continued to get increasingly outlandish from there, with several linking the river object to Scotland’s famous Loch Ness Monster.
Such behavior however is common surrounding the appearance of mysterious or suspicious sightings. For centuries the possible existence of wild, exotic, and previously undiscovered creatures or species have animated society.
When a 1933 newspaper article appeared about a local Scottish couple who claimed to have seen an enormous creature on the surface of the deep and famous lake, a sudden fervor took hold with London newspapers sending correspondents to find the creature and a circus even offering a £20,000 reward for the capture of the lake monster.
"People don't like reality, they like crazy stories,” said Reinhold Messner in a 2015 article for the BBC about the fabled Himalayan Yeti. Mr. Messner, a famous Yeti-hunter who claims to have seen the creature in the mountains in the 1980s, said "[people] like the Yeti as a Neanderthal, the Yeti as a mix between a human and an ape." However, for Messner the explanation is much more simple, though albeit less thrilling. "All the Yeti footprints are all the same bear," says Messner. "The Yeti isn't a fantastic figure. The Yeti is reality."
Similarly an Alaska Fish and Game Tanana River Management Biologist Klaus Wuttig has a very simple explanation for the object that has become known as the Alaskan river monster; the object is most likely a rope stuck to a bridge pier. According to Mr. Wuttig, cold nighttime temperatures in Fairbanks caused a type of loose, slushy ice known as frazil ice to form on the rope, causing it to float to the surface and seemingly "swim" in the current. "It looks like it's swimming but it's actually stationary and just wading in the current," Wuttig told the Alaska Dispatch News, "it looks like like it's swimming upstream, but it's not organic."
Of course, such a clear, scientific explanation isn't likely to stop the multiplication of more "creative" stories about the Alaska "ice monster."