The footage may be grainy, but it’s enough to send a shiver up the spine.

What looks like a long, thin, slimy monster has been caught on film, slithering down the Yangtze River, near the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei province, China.

Interest in the footage has peaked in the last few days, racking up thousands of shares and millions of views online.

Short news video service Pear Video shared footage of the ‘#ThreeGorgesWaterMonster’ on Friday Sept. 13 2019.

Curiosity and scepticism

Despite the excitement on social media, some netizens expressed doubt. One observed that ‘Monsters always appear only when the pixels are low’, while others joked that it was a scheme to bring tourism to the area. Some were more irreverent, with one user commenting, ‘The size of the snake is too big to be stewed in one pot’.

The popular short news video service Pear Video shared the footage on Friday, and quoted Wang Chunfang, a professor at Huazhong Agricultural University and fish physiology expert, as saying ‘There’s a strong possibility that it’s a water snake.’

This information wasn’t enough for some commenters, who were convinced it was an other-worldly being:

‘There are many things in the world that are beyond the existing knowledge system. What humans know is still too little.’

Another twist in the tale

It turns out it wasn’t a water snake either, despite the seemingly organic wiggling.

Photo taken by ferry authorities on Monday Sept. 16 2019, as reported by Pengpai News on Tuesday Sept. 17 2019.

On Tuesday, news website Pengpai News reported that local ferry authorities had spotted an object resembling the so-called ‘dragon’ draped along some rocks, which had become exposed as the river’s water level subsided.

On Tuesday Sept. 17 2019, news website The Paper shared footage of local authorities salvaging a long piece of discarded rubber.

They then went to investigate, and discovered a long stretch of deflated rubber tubing, which they presumed had come from a shipyard upstream.
Here (and there) be dragons

In China, conspiracy theories about monsters that lurk in the depths surface frequently.

For centuries, rumours have swirled around the existence of enormous creatures in Kanas Lake, in the far north of Xinjiang province, and supposed sightings have only increased with social media.

State media says that scientists believe them to be giant taimen, a kind of salmon.

Article by Peter O’Brien (@POB_journo)