A mysterious long, black object that was captured on video in the Yangtze River, and ended up captivating China with theories of its own Loch Ness monster, has been revealed as 20m-long industrial airbag.
Grainy footage showing what appeared to be a long black creature slithering among the waves near the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province circulated widely on Chinese social media.
On Sina Weibo, the video and a discussion thread about it has been viewed more than 32 million times since it emerged on Friday last week.
The video was covered by most major media, including the Beijing Youth Daily, the China Daily and state broadcaster China Central Television.
Some believed the visible part was just the top of a much larger animal, which netizens soon called the “Three Gorges Water Monster.”
Some theorized whether pollution in the river could have given rise to the creature, although scientists dismissed any idea of a new species, saying the creature was most likely a giant water snake.
Then on Tuesday, workers at a ferry pier downstream from the reservoir fished out a long piece of tubing, likely discarded from a shipyard.
Photographs from local media also showed another large piece of black trash washed up on the shore near the alleged sighting.
The Yangtze, Asia’s longest largest river, stretching from the edge of Tibet to China’s east coast, is now one of the most polluted as a result of industrial growth and overfishing.
Environmental advocates believe those effects have been compounded by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, completed in 2012, the world’s largest hydropower project.
An estimated one-third of fish species in the river are endangered and the baiji, or Chinese river dolphin, believed to have lived in the Yangtze for more than 20 million years, has become extinct.
While some observers lamented the end of the tale, and the poor video quality giving rise to theories of a monster, others said local authorities should maintain the mystery.
“Don’t take it out of the water. Seal the area, turn it into a tourist attraction and open it up to the world,” one netizen wrote.
“Disappointed. This is a cruel blow to human imagination and the desire to explore,” another added.
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