Britain's Alien Squid Mystery

It's either a very cool marine creature, or a very cool fake marine creature.

Dec 5 2013, 4:55pm
Video of the weird glowing creature/object. Via Youtube/John Tombe

Update 12/6/13: The truth has now come out, and it appears that the "Bristol alien" was in fact a clever stunt by a TV channel. UKTV's Watch channel has revealed it was behind the squid-shaped mystery. "The guerrilla campaign was created to launch 'The Happenings,' an audacious new illusion series featuring master magicians ‘Barry and Stuart’, a new show from the producers of Derren Brown," they wrote on their site this morning. Apparently the stunt brought them 3.5 million Twitter impressions. Now that's how you do social media.

Is it a jellyfish? A squid? An alien? Or just a prank?

Social media has been aflutter with sightings of this weird "creature" in the harbour of UK city Bristol on Tuesday, and no one seems to know what to make of it. On Twitter, people speculated that the tentacled thing could be anything from Father Christmas' underwater sleigh to an escapee from Bristol Zoo, or simply a hoax. Even local politicians are perplexed:

While it's doubtful that it's an alien, the mysterious object certainly looks organic in shape. Some experts have suggested it could be some type of illuminating marine creature that lost its way.

Biologist Steve Simpson from Bristol University told the Bristol Post, "There is a possibility that it is a special type of jellyfish or a marine salp. It's very unusual and I haven't really seen anything like it before though." He suggested it could have been brought into the harbour by recent storms and spring tides, though he did say it was unusual to see it in such a busy area. "This is either a very interesting animal or someone's very cool interpretation of a marine creature," he concluded.

Unfortunately, it looks like the latter might be true, and we haven't quite yet been invaded by glowing sea-dwelling aliens. In an interview with BBC Radio Bristol, Dan De Castro, the curator of the city's aquarium, said it was unlikely the mystery object was a living creature. "I think it’s nothing alive, I don’t think it’s a jellyfish or squid at all," he said. "It would be very unlikely for a jellyfish to actually arrive in Bristol harbour side in one piece and be alive. Not just for that reason, but I saw those pictures and it seems like they are completely artificial."

The chance of a jellyfish making it into water that close to the docks, he said, was unrealistic. "First of all it’s not good enough quality for them, they wouldn’t be able to survive upriver because there’s a lot of current, branches, several things they would have to overcome to actually come in one piece."

If it's just a hoax, it's still an extremely strange one. Why would some put what must have been a considerable amount of effort into making a fake alien squid? Some reports now claim that people are pointing to graffitti legend Banksy as the originator of the bizarre object (he comes from Bristol), but I can't find any evidence of the people behind that particular rumour. Like all good myths and conspiracies, the story seems to be taking on a life of its own.