This article originally appeared on Motherboard.
A huge, bloody, rotting corpse has washed up in Indonesia, and nobody knows for sure what it is. Locals first spotted the 15-meter-long monster (that's nearly 50 feet) off the shores of Seram Island on Tuesday night, and initially thought it was a boat because it was so big.
Now people are arguing about whether it's a giant squid, a dead whale, or some other kind of creature.
Indonesian media calls it a squid, based on reports from people who saw it actually floating there. If that's the case, 15 meters would be pretty huge. Giant squids are some of the biggest invertebrates on the planet, big enough to tangle with a sperm whale, and can measure up to 65 feet (20 meters), according to a 2016 paper looking at their maximum length. (Fake photos of giant squid washed up on beaches have gone around before, but this thing appears to be real, and there's video.)
I emailed the photos to Rob Deaville, project manager of the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme with the Zoological Society of London, and asked him what was going on here. He told me this is "definitely the remains of a baleen whale."
Deaville pointed out that, from the images, you can sort of make out the whale's distinctive "throat pleats, adjacent to what may be a pectoral fin." It's also possible to see what looks to be vertebrae in some of the photos, "and squid don't have backbones."
What makes it hard to tell, and especially gross to look at, is the degree to which this whale (or whatever it is) has decomposed. Stuff that's been dead in the water a long time always looks absolutely horrible once it surfaces, which is why waterlogged corpses of unidentifiable animals spur tales about mysterious sea monsters washing ashore.
Indonesian researchers are now doing tests to figure out exactly what this thing is, and how it died. In the meantime, the only thing I know for sure is it's got to smell absolutely awful.