An online mystery surrounding the appearance of a giant "sea monster" on a New Zealand beach has apparently been solved.
The creepy-looking object - several metres long and covered in long dark tentacles and shells - was photographed by local resident Melissa Doubleday on Friday (Dec 9) night on Facebook after washing up on Muriwai Beach, near Auckland.
She posted the photo on the Muriwai & Waimauku Area Community Group Facebook page, asking: “Just curious to know if anyone knows what this is??! Washed up on Muriwai Beach.”
Ms Doubleday told stuff.co.nz: “I actually thought it was a washed up whale as I approached it, so weird.”
Speculation and humour ran wild online, with guesses ranging from a “sea monster with dreadlocks”, to a Rastafarian whale, an alien time capsule and an ancient a Maori canoe.
The New Zealand Marine Sciences Society said, however, they were "almost positive from looking at the images" that it was a piece of driftwood covered in what are known as gooseneck barnacles, reported stuff.co.nz.
Gooseneck barnacles are filter-feeding crustaceans that live attached to hard surfaces of rock or driftwood.
In Portugal and Spain, they are a widely consumed and are an expensive delicacy known as percebes.
The Cooking Lisbon website has a number of gooseneck barnacle recipes and describes them as "softer than squid, firmer than crab".
Other odd objects have washed up on New Zealand’s beaches in the weeks since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country’s South Island in November, raising the seabed by 2m.
After news surfaced of the “Muriwai Monster”, locals flocked to the beach, about 40km north-west of Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, said The Australian
The attraction, however, will likely be short-lived.
“Everything on it has died now, and it smells really bad,” Doubleday said on Tuesday (Dec 13) on Facebook.
Muriwai resident Rani Timoti said in all her years wandering the beach, she has never seen anything like it, reported stuff.co.nz.
"This is the biggest one I've seen. It's got a putrid smell when you're down wind and when you look closely, it looks like wiggling worms," she said.