Feb. 13, 2012 at 6:29 PM ET
Further information about the "river monster" seen in a video from Iceland has led to the likeliest explanation for the snake-shaped phenomenon — and it's not Nessie.
The video, which seems to show some sort of subarctic anaconda making its way upstream through Iceland's Jokulsa River, was recorded by 67-year-old farmer Hjortur Kjerulf and initially distributed online last week by RUV television. The clip went viral on the Internet, even though skeptical observers said it looked more like a computer-generated hoax, a robot designed to play a trick on somebody or a snagged fishing net.
Now the consensus is leaning toward the fishing-net explanation.
Writing for Discovery News, investigator Benjamin Radford says Finland's Miisa McKeown has analyzed the video, matching up the position of the monster's head with relation to static reference points. Her conclusion? The "monster" is actually stuck in one place on the river. The snaky thing looks as if it's swimming upstream because water is streaming past it. It's the moving water that creates the illusion of a swimming snake.
You can see through the illusion by concentrating on the snake's head and the tree branches to the right when you watch the video.
Over the weekend, Kjerulf said he never intended to perpetrate a hoax. "That is ridiculous," IceNews quoted him as saying on Bylgjan Radio. "This is no joke."
Kjerulf said he looked out from his kitchen window and noticed the "monster" wriggling in the river. He saw that it was still there after he finished the cup of coffee he was drinking, and so he went out with a camera and captured the footage. He took the video to a nearby RUV office, which decided to put it on the national news. Then the video hit the Internet. "The rest, as they say, is history," IceNews reported.
As the video made its way around the world, observers drew comparisons to the legend of the Lagafljot Worm, the Icelandic equivalent of Scotland's Loch Ness monster. But Kjerulf said he never claimed that what he saw was the lake monster — rather, he just passed along the shots and left it to others to draw their own conclusions.
Radford said the fact that the wriggling object remained in the same place for the several minutes it took Kjerulf to finish his coffee strongly suggests that it was a net or a long piece of cloth, caught on a branch or a rock lying beneath the surface of the river. Its snaky shape is due to chunks of ice hanging onto the net. You can see similar chunks floating past in the video.
The Icelandic river monster isn't the first crypto-video to cause a stir, and it won't be the last. Here are a few other cases from the recent past:
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