Viral footage of an object snaking through China’s Yangtze river that sparked theories that the country could be home to a mysterious beast turned out to have captured a big piece of rubber tubing.
The footage, which shows a long-black object moving snake-like through the water, gained traction on Chinese social media and was widely covered by Chinese media outlets, which speculated that some sort of monster could possibly be hidden in the depths.
People began to use the hashtag #ThreeGorgesMonsterPhotos, and experts weighed in over what the creature might be, arguing that it was more likely to be a big water snake or garbage than any sort of monster or prehistoric beast, the BBC reported.
According to the UK’s The Guardian newspaper, the video and a related discussion thread was viewed on Chinese social media website Weibo more than 32 million times between September 13 and September 19.
Conspiracy theorists were left disappointed, however, when workers pulled a long piece of tubing from the river, which is known for its heavy pollution levels, on Tuesday.
The UK’s Mail Online reported that workers pulled the item out of the river and confirmed it was made of rubber.
A spokesperson for the Chizhou Yangtze River Automobile and Ferry Management Bureau, which is in the province where the debris was found, told the Mail Online that the object was a broken industrial airbag that had been abandoned by a shipyard and pulled along by the river.
The airbag was around 20 meters (65 feet) long, the Mail Online reported..
The outlet also shared footage of workers pulling the long piece of rubber out of the river:
The Mail Online reported that the man who recorded the video said he filmed it in Chizhou, in eastern China, rather than 700 miles away near the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s biggest power station, where many on social media claimed the video came from.
The theories about China’s fake river monster mirror those about the famed Loch Ness Monster — a long-running legend that a massive, eel-like monster is living in Scotland’s Loch Ness.
“Nessie,” as the mythical beast is often known, draws thousands of visitors a year to the remote site, searching for evidence of its existence.
Scientists have never found any evidence of the Loch Ness Monster and the 1920s photo that sparked interest in the beast was revealed as a hoax. But there are still so-called sightings recorded every year and researchers are still looking for clues.
Earlier in September, researchers from a university in New Zealand published the results of a study that found a surprisingly high amount of eel DNA in the water of Loch Ness, which they say may point to the existence of a real Loch Ness Monster.