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Media Article # 373
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Scientist makes strides in search for bigfoot
By Greg Bolt
The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon
They've run through camp, howled across canyons and once even ran off with all the oatmeal.
J. Richard Greenwell isn't saying it was Bigfoot that made more than three dozen nocturnal visits to his wilderness camps, but he isn't saying that it wasn't. As a scientist, he's
just testing a hypothesis, but he said the data so far indicate that, if nothing else, something is out there.
"We don't deal in beliefs or trying to prove something," Greenwell said Friday after presenting a paper on his research. "We're testing a hypothesis, and so far the hypothesis is supported."
Greenwell's well-attended talk was one of dozens being delivered at this week's Northwest Anthropological Conference at the Valley River Inn. The three-day event, jointly sponsored by the University of Oregon Museum of Natural History and the Bureau of Land Management, has drawn scientists from all over the region to present some of their latest research findings.
Greenwell packed a conference room for his report on evidence of an "unverified primate species" in the Pacific Northwest. In it, he detailed the results of work he and several
colleagues did over four summers, spending a total of 60 days in the remote Siskiyou Wilderness in the Six Rivers National Forest just south of the Oregon border.
Call it a Bigfoot, Sasquatch or Yeti, but a hairy, apelike creature tall enough to make a basketball coach cry has been a part of Northwest legend almost as long as Homo sapiens have been here. What's been lacking is proof - rock-solid and incontrovertible evidence that we're not the only two-legged mammals roaming this corner of American geography.
Greenwell is a cryptozoologist and secretary of the Tucson-based International Society of Cryptozoology, a group that searches for animals that have been described but not
documented or are believed to be extinct but might not be. He's also a research associate in mammalogy at the International Wildlife Museum, and he said he started his Sasquatch research in 1997 with the aim of collecting evidence that settles, one way or another, the question of the creature's existence.
He and his team toted 500 pounds of equipment into deep, trailless valleys 40 miles from the nearest human outpost. Their tools included automatic cameras, motion detectors, sound recorders and a powerful speaker system.
They set up the speakers each day at twilight, when they would broadcast recorded gorilla vocalizations as well as the howls of suspected Bigfoots that others had captured on tape.
Then they'd wait.
Most of the time, they didn't have to wait long. On average, they had an event every 1.6 days, things they categorized as rock throwing, vegetation smashing, camp visitations,
vocalizations and the like.
On several occasions, Greenwell said, something on two feet tromped quickly through camp, brushing against tents and occasionally banging one of their packs against a tree and then running off - too quickly for anyone to spring from his tent and get a look at it. Once, something opened the food bag and took all of their packets of instant oatmeal before
dashing away and leaving the rest of the food behind.
Twice, the creature left footprints measuring 16 inches long, which were photographed and documented. But they never found any hairs. Or the oatmeal packages.
But they did hear ... something. On 10 occasions over the four summers, team members heard unusual sounds, including what Greenwell described as "tremendous, bellowing howls" that lasted 12 to 14 seconds and usually were repeated a second time.
"It was quite frightening at first," he said. "We don't know of any sort of North American mammal that can produce such vocalizations."
Sometimes they heard other sounds, strange ones that almost seemed like two creatures "talking" back and forth. Greenwell described it as a hollow, bamboo-on-wood "tok,"
followed by a glottal sound and then a higher-pitched "ping," going back and forth at ground level.
Greenwell has spent plenty of time doing field research in the United States, China, the Congo and other remote spots around the world, and he's not unfamiliar with nighttime
noises in the wilderness. They heard the usual ones in the Siskiyou, but these others were harder to explain. "The vocalizations are very different and distinctive," he said.
Other bits of evidence included two possible beds made of fir boughs that had been broken off when they were still green, something that would have taken great strength. They were
piled in layers with supporting cross pieces at the bottom. There was no sign people had ever been in the area.
"Bears do break branches," Greenwell said. "But bears do not carry branches some distance and pile them up."
Greenwell is careful not to say he has found proof of Bigfoot's existence or even that he necessarily is convinced it exists. And he acknowledges that proof is hard to come by.
They never caught a glimpse of one, despite all the noises, the 12 times something visited a camp, the automatic cameras. The weather was always bad, the sound equipment put away or the light wrong when there was a chance to nail down the decisive bit of evidence.
"If it was easy to prove, it would have been proven already," he said.
For one thing, when they outfitted the expedition they didn't realize the creatures were so nocturnal, so they didn't buy good night-vision cameras. What Greenwell wants to do
next is get funding for some expensive, motion-activated, night-vision video equipment and go out again.
Ultimately, he said, they'll find evidence of whatever is out there, whether it's people, a Sasquatch or something else.
"Whatever these entities are, we'll find them," he said. "And if it's Sasquatch, that will validate the hypothesis."
The conference mentioned in the article was about Northwest
anthropology research in general. Only one of the dozens of
presentations regarded bigfoot/sasquatch research.
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