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Media Article # 305
Monday, June 17, 2002
'Sasquatch cast' makes a big impression on anatomists, TV
By David Fisher
Seattle Post Intelligencer
EDMONDS -- The search for Bigfoot has come to downtown Edmonds.
Three noted anthropologists gathered in a waterfront hotel room earlier this month to examine the cast of a possible sasquatch imprint, taken in September 2000 by an Edmonds Bigfoot hunter in the Gifford Pinchot National Wilderness near Mount Adams.
The clear imprint of a huge heel and Achilles tendon, along with possible imprints of hindquarters and a forearm, are intriguing.
It's not proof -- there is no solid proof -- that a huge North American ape exists in the woods of Western Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, American Museum of Natural History anatomist Esteban Sarmiento said.
But 40 years of Bigfoot sightings, footprints and other signs have built a body of evidence that something unusual may be in the woods, University of Washington professor emeritus Daris Swindler said.
No notable anthropologists are systematically studying the evidence because no financing exists to do so, Swindler said. But it's no longer the kiss of death for an anthropologist's career to seriously consider the possibility that the creature, once thought to be legendary, exists.
Swindler, Sarmiento and Idaho State University anatomy professor Jeffrey Meldrum gathered to investigate the cast of the imprint for the filming of a Discovery Channel documentary on the science behind the search for the sasquatch.
Preliminarily titled "Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science," the documentary will focus on the scientific analysis of seven or eight bits of purported Bigfoot evidence, including the Edmonds cast.
The show is scheduled to air in November.
Known among Bigfoot hunters as the "Skookum cast," it was made by a team of sasquatch hunters that included Richard Noll, a 49-year-old tooling technician from Edmonds who has hunted Bigfoot in his spare time for almost three decades.
The team, part of a network of sasquatch researchers called the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, hung a bait made of apples and nectarines over a mud wallow on Sept. 22, 2000. They returned to find suspicious impressions in the mud, along with footprints in the vicinity.
Noll used a specialized compound, normally used to produce fine details in tooling, to take a 200-pound cast of the impressions.
In an empty conference room at the Harbor Inn on June 7, Sarmiento, Swindler and Meldrum pointed to details in the impressions as hot TV lights burned.
A deep knob-shaped hole with a fluted groove running into it could have been made by the back of a huge heel jammed into the mud, Meldrum said. Fine lines, reminiscent of the fingerprint patterns on human heels, are faintly visible.
Another impression, lined with hair marks, could have been made by a huge hindquarters, Sarmiento said. Another looks like the impression of a massive forearm.
Interpreted in conjunction with one another, the marks could have been left by an animal reclining in the mud to eat its fruit, with one knee pointed in the air and one heel dug in, Meldrum said. Given the proportions, it would have been about an eight-foot animal.
Or, the impressions could simply mark the spots where three different animals lay or stepped in the mud.
Likewise, on closer analysis, hairs plucked from the sample may turn out to be primate hairs -- or elk, coyote or rodent fur.
If it is authentic, the cast would be the only body impression ever taken of a sasquatch.
That, indeed, would make it "arguably the most significant find in the past two decades," Benjamin Radford, a hoax-buster and author, wrote in the March issue of "Skeptical Inquirer" magazine.
But, as is typical with Bigfoot evidence, the cast is inconclusive, Radford maintained. There is an undeniably huge volume of Bigfoot data -- footprint casts, recordings of hoots and calls, and anecdotes -- but, in his analysis, the physical evidence of footprints is inconsistent and littered with hoaxes.
Anecdotal sightings and unidentifiable recordings do not constitute testable or conclusive scientific evidence.
And no one, to date, has found a sasquatch body, bone or body part, either in the woods or on the thousands of human archeological sites that have been excavated on the North American continent.
None, that is, unless they have been found and misidentified.
With the recent deaths of Washington State University anthropologist Grover Krantz and Oregon wildlife biologist LeRoy Fish, Meldrum has become one of the most noted professional scientists actively on the Bigfoot trail.
An associate professor of anatomy at Idaho State who specializes in primate motion, Meldrum said he has found a good deal of consistency in the hundreds of Bigfoot prints he has studied, in details that would be difficult for a hoaxer to mimic.
Discovery Channel producer Doug Hajicek, a veteran of natural history documentaries, said his intent is simply to focus on the science that is used to investigate Bigfoot evidence, and, possibly, to help open the door to more systematic scientific field research and inquiries.
The presence of Sarmiento, a functional anatomist who has concentrated on African gorilla populations and the study of hominid skeletons, constituted the first sign of Bigfoot interest from the New York-based American Museum of Natural History.
Surprising discoveries are not unknown in the field of primate research. The gorilla was not documented by European explorers until 1848 -- the mountain gorilla not until 1902.
Skepticism, meanwhile, is likely to prevail in the scientific community until the ultimate evidence is in.
"Obviously, to me the ultimate evidence that this thing exists is if somebody found one and brought it back," Sarmiento said.
"It would be the same for you, right? Nevertheless, this find is exciting."
Notify the Bigfoot Field Research Organization through its Web site at www.bfro.net Someone will check out and document your claim.
P-I reporter David Fisher can be reached at 425-252-2215 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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