A flashing marine creature was described as “alien-like” by locals in the U.K. who spotted it in Bristol Harbor — and it was even baffling scientists. But there’s a reason why it was confusing experts.
It was all revealed Friday to be a PR stunt to promote a new television show.
The strange creature appeared to glow in several colors as it floated in the water, allowing witnesses — still unaware of its true identity — ample time to take film and photo evidence of it.
Check it out in this footage:
Biologists said that bioluminescent animals, if that’s what the creature was, are not uncommon but they are unexpected in this location.
Steve Simpson, a biologist with Bristol University’s School of Biological Sciences, told the U.K.’s Daily Star he “[didn't] really know what to make of it.”
“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,” Simpson said, speculating that it could have come into the harbor to take shelter from stormy seas.
“We are currently experiencing spring tides too which may have dragged whatever this is in from the sea,” Simpson told the Star.
The U.K.’s Daily Telegraph pulled together a list of options as to what it could be before its real identity was revealed:
A rare type of marine salp: these are barrel-shaped marine animals which feed on algae and form into long chains with other salps. They look very primitive, like jellyfishes, but their biological make-up is actually closer to fish and vertebrates.
A jellyfish: there are a huge number of different jellyfish species across the globe, many of which carry luminescent and fluorescent genes
An alien: a number of passers-by who spotted the squid-like creature likened it to a creature from another world
An art installation: some marine biologists are unconvinced the ‘creature’ seen in the harbour was a living thing. The curator of the Bristol Aquarium, Daniel De Castro, said he believed it was “entirely artificial”.
A Banksy work: some people have suggested that Bristol street art legend Banksy might be behind the mystery sighting. Despite conceding it might a marine creature, Dr Steve Simpson, senior lecturer in Biosciences at the University of Exeter, said: “I’m still waiting for Banksy to own up.”
A prank: someone thought it would be entertaining to get tongues wagging about an alien invasion in Bristol but, if it was a prankster, they have done a very professional job. Mr Di Castro said: “It’s really clever the way they’ve done it.”
Here’s another video of the creature, showing it change its light intensity and flicker:
Alex Gordon-Lennox, a 22-year-old who witnessed the creature, described it as ”just floating down the harbor,” according to the Daily Star.
Then on Friday, the Telegraph in a separate posted reported, the viral creature was really stunt meant to promote a TV show about magic and illusions. “The Happenings” will air on the UKTV channel Watch.
“This new series on Watch is all about unforgettable and extraordinary events that capture the imagination,” the channels general manager, Steve Hornsey, told the Telegraph. “The Bristol Harbor Alien was designed to replicate this sense of magical excitement in a real world setting.”
This story was updated after the U.K. TV channel came clean about it being a stunt.