“Our Fairbanks employees captured this strange ‘thing,’ swimming in the Chena River,” the post read. Hashtag Wild Wednesday, it added.
The wildness continued beyond Wednesday. Perhaps it was the whiff of authority, coming from a government agency. Perhaps it was the proximity to Halloween. Perhaps it was fueled by the American love for cryptids — unsubstantiated mythological critters, like Bigfoot — and tabloid love for implausible characters — like Bat Boy or Hillary Clinton’s adopted alien baby.
Perhaps it was the way the thing seemed to ripple through the water, with an aquatic slither not unlike a snake.
The thing gained a name in the comments section. And so the Alaskan Ice Monster was born.
It was a cousin of the Loch Ness monster, or maybe Nessie herself had slipped past immigration. It was the Chena Chomper, a sea monster, a massive sturgeon, a zombie salmon, a wayward shark, a scabby whale, a pet alligator dumped in the river, an icy moose hide, an arthropod of unusual size or a giant arctic crocodile. It was a “beavegator,” whatever that was. If you looked closely, it had tentacles. And gills. Or an armored tail. But definitely tentacles.
The video was not altered, the bureau said on Facebook, except to add appropriately thematic music.
“It’s strange thing. I don’t know what I would have done if I had come by in a canoe or something,” McCaa told Alaska Dispatch News last week. “But looking from it above on the University Avenue bridge I didn’t feel too threatened.”
In the end, the story turned out to be more yarn than tail.
Experts at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game chimed in. It was nothing biological, just junk. Specifically, the bureau said in a Facebook update Sunday, the thing was “frazil ice stuck to a rope that is probably caught on a bridge pier.”
The natural phenomenon of frazil ice occurs during bursts of cold. Instead of forming a crust, the small and supercooled disks mix into flowing rivers and streams, giving the water a slushy appearance. There’s ice, but no monster.
When the Alaskan agency employees returned to the scene on Oct. 31, the area had warmed, and the thing vanished along with the river ice and snow.
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