DHS Squirrel

In Search of Great North camera crew

by Matt Moneymaker (edited by BFRO) - Posted January 8, 2010

This still frame from the 2001 IMAX film "Great North" by documentarist Martin Jose' Dignard, shows a figure that may be a sasquatch.

The film explores the natural history of two regions -- Northern Quebec and Northern Scandinavia -- with a focus on caribou/reindeer herds.

This particular clip of caribou migration was obtained at a remote location in either Quebec or Labrador (the film doesn't specify).

The clip was shot from a great distance with a telescopic lens. It shows droves of caribou crossing an unnamed body of water (either a river, or a lake arm, or a fjord arm).

As a pack of caribou exits the water, an upright figure pops up out of a ditch and scrambles toward the moving herd, then quickly hunkers down again out of view. The darting figure is visible only for a few seconds, and only from head to mid-torso.

For the sake of simplicity, and objectivity, we'll call this dark figure the "Great North Figure" or "GNF".

We first heard about the GNF a few weeks ago, after some eagle-eyed person noticed it while watching Great North on HULU. That person re-watched the clip a few times and became more intrigued. Subsequently he/she posted something about it on an Internet message board. That board posting encouraged a few other people to send us emails about it. Then we watched the film on HULU ourselves.

You may think it's too blurry to conclusively distinguish from a human form -- one of many "maybe" clips out there obtained from a distance and enlarged.

... But there's an interesting twist here: This dark figure was filmed with an IMAX camera.

The entire documentary can be viewed online for free
(though not in IMAX resolution).

Unfortunely, anyone outside the U.S. cannot watch films on ...

But fortunately, a clever person has transferred the relevent portion the film onto Yahoo.

The Yahoo version has no sound, and can be quite jerky in 1080p mode, depending upon your computer and connection. At least you can see the full scene (not the whole film).

The YouTube clip embedded below was posted by a different unknown clever person who apparently rented the DVD and zoomed in on that portion of the screeen, then stabilized the shot with editing software. It's a slow-motion enlargement of the GNF, but at a much lower resolution then what could be possible with a focused reexamination of those IMAX frames.

Even in the best re-scans of the original IMAX frames, the facial features of this figure may not be defined, but undoubtedly more details of the upper body will be discernable. The figure may appear more sasquatch-like, and less human-like ... Or it may appear more human-like, and less sasquatch-like. It's certainly sasquatch-like enough right now to justify a re-scan of those frames, wherever they may be.

Has Dignard (the Director) been Contacted about this Yet?

The short answer: No, not yet, as far as we know.

This web page had to be put online first to ensure the whole crew could see exactly what we're talking about, without any grapevine confusion. Dignard himself may not have been present for this particular migration shoot. The background information suggests he spent a larger part of the production period on the Scandinavian shoot. The crew(s) for the Quebec/Labrador sequences would be the people to ask directly about this clip, and about this figure.

Although the film has credits at the end listing all the crew members, there's no way to ascertain the roster of people who helped obtain this particular clip.

This author (Matt Moneymaker) is making certain guesses here. One of those guesses is that the people connected with the production have no idea what this fugure is ... if they've ever noticed it at all. It is not mentioned in the narration of the film, nor in the "behind-the-scenes film (included in the DVD version)... even though it is a dramatic little bit of action -- action which would be particularly pertinent to this documentary, if it was an Inuit hunter at work, etc.

In no other sequences showing caribou out in the open, is there a crew member accidentally in the background ... If something like that happened during filming, they probably would not have used that clip, or they would have cut it shorter in the final editing.

The specific sequence, and the options of what the figure might be ... needed to be fully presented on a web page, rather than by calling around. Approaching it this way will elicit answers much faster from the crew. The answers will be more accurate, and more of the people involved will be able to provide input. It was a sizeable crew. They may be in different parts of the world by now, but they probably still keep in touch via email.

Especially after studying the "behind-the-scenes" presentation included in the DVD, this author seriously doubts that a crew member, or an Inuit hunter, was scrambling toward a stampeding herd of caribou, dressed from head to toe in a form-fitting, dark-brown, body-suit ... a body-suit that gave him the appearance of an agile, well-muscled, dark-furred predator. I really doubt that ... but we'll see.

There is a risk that a default assumption (for lack of a better explanation) will be, or would have been, regarded as a conclusion by the production staff. If the figure was noticed by someone in the labs in Japan, for example, they may have assumed it must have been some other wildlife photographer out there at that water crossing ... That may seem logical to someone who wasn't there at the time.

At the time he obtained this clip, the cameraman's disciplined eyes would have been looking through a viewfinder. He would have been carefully panning on the moving herd. His assistants standing nearby would have been looking in the same direction, but not through a telephoto lens. There is simply no way they would have focused on this darting figure unless they happened to be looking right at that spot with excellent binoculars.

Then at the pre-release screenings for the crew and/or sponsors, no one would have shouted out to the projectionist to rewind the enormous IMAX reel to show that sequence over again. Only ten years later, once it became common, free and easy to watch old nature documentaries online (i.e. not in a situation where it would be inconsiderate to rewind the footage over and over) and in fairly high-resolution (HULU) would a person notice this spooky, darting figure near the caribou herd.

The pertinent questions to be addressed by the crew members are:

1) Do you know for certain what this figure was?

2) Was it someone connected to the production who was accidentally in the background of the shot?

3) Were any other humans seen near this migrating herd, at any point while the crew was at this site?

4) How many crew members were present when this sequence was shot? How many IMAX cameras were at that shoot?

5) Has anyone brought this issue to their attention before?

We ask anyone and everyone who was present when this sequence was filmed ... to contact us at this email address:

We will post any direct replies we receive from the crew addressing these questions. We'll start by forwarding the link to the production offices, and see if they can forward the message to Mr. Dignard, who can hopefully forward it along to everyone who was present at the time.

IMAX cameras use jumbo-size film stock, so the image can be projected onto jumbo size screens in IMAX theaters. The frames are so large that small figures in the scene can be enlarged with much greater clarity. Standard film is already much better than standard video, when it comes to resolution of distant figures. A distant figure on IMAX film will have, literally, twice as much detail as the same distant figure on 35mm film footage (which is already twice the resolution of 16mm film).

The original IMAX reels for Great North must still exist somewhere. They were sitting on this shelf (right) in the Imagica building in Tokyo, Japan, at some point ten years ago.

Japan's Imagica Corporation supported the film project by develping the IMAX reels and digitizing them for various uses, including editing and DVD production.

Whereever the orginal reel may reside, if pulled off the shelf and re-examined (by re-scanning the 100 or so frames showing the figure) ... it may show something rather compelling.

The IMAX reels for "Great North" on a shelf in the Imagica building in Tokyo, Japan, ten years ago.


Could it be a Hoax??

Unlikely, for a few reasons:

If you mouse over the player window while watching the full movie on HULU, various controls appear on the edges. One of the controls allows you to watch in higher resolution. Switch to hi-res, then switch to full screen (button in upper-right corner of player window). That's the clearest you'll see online.

The standard DVD of the film shows the figure a bit better, especially when you view it on a big screen and you get close to the screen. The Blu-Ray version should be even better. I have not seen the Blu-Ray version yet. Based on the standard DVD version, the figure looks a bit less human-like, and a bit more sasquatch-like, as the resolution increases.

It sure makes us wonder what we'll see in the enlargements of the orginal IMAX frames.

1) Great North was not your average commercial film project, where there might be some motivation, arguably, to include a silly gimmick. This was a very serious nature documentary. Great North was funded by a Canadian-government-owned public utility, Hydro-Quebec, with the support of the prestigious Swedish Museum of Natural History (founded in 1819), and a long list of others who would seriously frown on a hoax in this context.

2) The location is very remote. The spot can probably be reached only by helicopter (and therefore it should be easy to control access -- probably no more than three re-feuling heliports can service this area). The only people in this area at this time, more than likely, were the people who were flown in there by helicopter to get these shots. Experience has taught us that people who obtain footage of a person masquerading as a sasquatch, especially at a remote location ... are always involved in the hoax. So the camera crew, or someone connected with the camera crew, would have to be involved in this, if it was a hoax ... It would not be a "third-party hoax," not at such a remote spot.

3) The film premiered nine (9) years ago. If it was a hoax the figure would have been pointed out closer to the time of release, if the crew had been involved. It would not have been pointed out as a possible sasquatch nine years after the release, and long after the film was no longer being shown in IMAX theaters. The hoaxer crew would have gone to a lot of trouble for no reward.

Could it be a Cameraman, a Photographer, or a Hunter?

This possibility is more likely than a hoax, but it is still pretty unlikely, for a few reasons.

The three most likely possibilities in the non-hoaxer human scenario:

1) A cameraman/photographer trying to get to a better position to film/photograph the rushing herd;

2) A crew member, other than the cameraman, stumbled into the shot or was trying to purposely direct the herd in a particular direction;

3) A hunter trying to get into a better position to take down a caribou.

This "cameraman" does not appear to be carrying a camera, especially not a camera on a tripod. The "camerman" must be scrambling over to where a camera is already set up on a tripod. But that doesn't make sense. If a camera was already set up there, why would the cameraman not be waiting behind it ... Isn't that what wildlife photographers do?

In one part of the "behind-the-scenes" video, local herdsmen in Scandinavia are shown herding reindeer using motorcycles and ATV's. Nowhere in the scenes shot in Quebec/Labrador do they show herdsmens, etc., on motorcycles or ATVs. One of the key points of the film is the contrast with Scandinavia, because the natives in Quebec do not herd caribou at all. No one does that, actually. The camera crew in Quebec accessed those migration areas by helicopter.

IMAX cameras are the largest cameras in the world. They weigh about 100 pounds. They are very cumbersome to move around. It takes at least two people to position them securely. They are handled with great care because they are very expensive and cannot be quickly replaced.

The crew likely used only one IMAX camera on a given shoot. Based on the "behind-the-scenes" film (included in the DVD) they probably did not do cross-shots of the migration sequences with different IMAX cameras. It appears they only shot from one angle at a time.

Comments in the interviews indicate other important factors that are relevant to the question of whether it could be another cameraman.

The director emphasized how important it was to remain perfectly still when a caribou herd was nearby, due to their tendency to stampede dangerouly when spooked.

The crew clearly wanted to avoid a situation where a fast-moving herd might run toward them. Whereas, the GNF figure is clearly trying to get closer to the running caribou.

As for the hunter possibility: A rifle hunter would not need to get anywhere near the herd to shoot a caribou. A bow hunter would need to move closer, but that hunter would be carrying a bow. From the DVD version, the upper body movements suggest the arms may have been touching the ground as it repositioned itself along the edge of the ditch. The body moves in a way that is inconsistent with the movement of a human carrying a bow and arrows.


What is "Sasquatch-like" about this Figure?

A few things are "sasquatch-like" about this figure:

1) It appears to be uniform in color, more or less. Clothed humans tend to have more than one color in their clothing ensemble, unless they are trying to be camouflaged. The "camouflage" of this figure would be appropriate only for hunting in the dark.

At the best resolution currently available to me (there is a Blu-Ray version I have not seen yet), the figure is uniformly dark brown with rusty hues in sunlight (like the Patterson figure). In the standard DVD version, when viewed on a large screen, you can barely see tinges of rusty-brown on the sun-facing edges of the head and shoulders. At least that detail should be much more visible in the enlarged IMAX frames.

Why would a camerman or hunter be dressed in that particular color?

2) Some observers may assume it appears uniformly dark because it is silhouetted. But a close examination of the whole scene suggests there is plenty of ambient light, enough to prevent the sort of backlighting that would cause this figure to look much darker than it really is. If that were the case, the caribou running nearby would show the same effect -- they would look very dark also. None of the caribou look that way. There was sufficient ambient light to prevent heavy backlighting of the caribou herd, so it would not occur with this figure much more.

3) The outline of the figure may seem man-like at first glance, but a person (a person not pretending to be a sasquatch) would likely appear quite different in this situation.

There should be contours of clothing visible, especially as it moves. Nothing in the highest-res version indicates any clothing.

It looks more like something covered with dark fur, like a bear.

Great North crew wearing dark clothing. Notice the outlines of clothing.

Even in a Ghillie suit (a green camouflaged body suit that makes a person look like a bush) a person would appear more puffy.

The "behind the scenes" film shows a quick clip of some crew members in Ghillie suits while filming caribou at one point. They look very leafy around the edges, and they are green rather than dark brown.

The arms of a clothed/cloaked human in this situation would not be quite as distinct as they are on this figure. The figure appears to be buff, but streamlined. .

Great North crew wearing Ghillie suits. Notice their leafy green edges.

4) It appears to be quite large for a human form, when compared to the nearby caribou. The average caribou is 44 inches high at the shoulders.

The Great North camera crew may have a better sense of its size. Their experience on this long production would have given them a good sense of how brawny a human should look when standing near a caribou herd -- another reason why they need to take a close look at this clip.

5) The behavior is very sasquatch-like.

Circumstantial evidence suggesting predatory behavior by sasquatches was first noticed in Ohio in the early 1990's. Since then many other people have described corroborating situations and observations (e.g. sasquatches carrying off road-kill deer from rural highways) in other places. This has led many bigfoot researches to suspect that sasquatches shadow roving herds of ungulates as a lifestyle -- deer in the East, elk in the West, and caribou in the North.

Various observations and situations suggest sasquatches hunt by ambush (e.g. rock throwing near strategic bottleneck/ambush points). Many observations suggest that sasquatches "herd" groups of ungulates in desired vectors, somewhat like primitive cowboys.

With that in mind, the original negative of this IMAX sequence should be pulled off the shelf for a special scan of these frames -- a scan so detailed that no one will wonder whether some better method might yield even more detail of the GNF.

Nowadays there are computerized scanners that can scan frames of film down almost to the molecular level.

The Imagica Corporation in Tokyo can probably do this. They had the original footage on their shelves ten years ago. There's a chance those reels are still there, in the building shown on the right.

Ten years ago, at least, the footage would have been owned by the principal funding source -- Hydro-Quebec, in Montreal, Canada. So in the ensuing ten years the reels may have been shipped to Montreal for safe keeping. Different portions may even be in different places. Mr. Dignard should be able to find out where those reels are at present.

The original IMAX reels may be in the Imagica building in Tokyo, Japan.

Could a Sasquatch Survive the Winters of Quebec?


Caribou feeding in winter, digging through snow to access lichens, etc..

"Reindeer lichen" is the staple food source for caribou in the winter.
It is surprisingly nutritious and high in vitamins A and B.

Caribou make craters in the snow as they dig for lichens in winter in Quebec's borreal forests. These craters double as wind-sheltered bedding areas. Sasquatches could use these same craters for protection from wind, while making it easier for them to dig for lichens for their own consumption.

Yes, it is possible sasquatch hibernate in winter, but there has never been any annecdotal evidence to suggest hibernation.

To the contrary, sasquatch tracks in snow have often been found in areas where bears exist, and at times of year when the bears were hibernating.

Everything seems to suggest they continue to hunt throughout the year.

Their survival in Northern Quebec, ironically, boils down to whether they are predators of caribou in this region. If so, they can survive in Northern Quebec through the winter. They merely need to follow the caribou throughout the year.

If they shadowed caribou herds, they would have a staple source of protein and fat year round -- the same type of limited diet that sustained Inuit bands (Eskimos) for thousands of years.

Throughout the year there is an abundance of accessible, edible mosses and lichens also.

In the caribou's wintering zone "reindeer lichen" (a.k.a. white moss) is abundant. It is their sustaining food source though the long winter.

Hunters say the lichen diet gives caribou meat its great flavor.

Sasquatches would likely supplement their own diet with the same nutrient sources that caribou feed upon. They would not be strictly carnivorous if they did not need to be.

Caribou herds would lead sasquatches to those lichen-rich areas in Northern Quebec's spruce forests, and would make the task of digging down to the lichens much easier.

Caribou dig through the snow to reach the lichen. In deep snow they will make craters as they excavate the snow to reach the surface of the ground. These craters would make the task of carving out a snow den much easier for sasquatches.

Although we don't know of many sightings in the Quebec/Labrador region, we would not expect to receive many due to the small number of people living in this vast area.

There are only about 10,000 people living up there year round. Nearly all of them live at the coastline, not in the interior.

We receive sightings from zones where there are both sasquatches, and plenty of English-speaking humans, and computers with Internet access. Without those final factors there will be almost no reported sightings, even if there are many sasquatches in the region.

Are there Any Stories from Native Tribes in this Region?

There are several different native tribal groups (first nations) in this region.

Many (if not all) of these tribal groups have their own stories about sasquatch-like figures.

Different tribes have different names. Among them: Wendigo, Witiko, Kokotsche, Misabe, Atcen, Atschenem, Chenoo, Djenu, Ithaqua, Kokodje, Outiko, and Vindiko

Loren Coleman mentions this in one of his catalogues of old sources describing sasquatch-like figures in various parts of North America.

In the past century, native tribes began to lament the loss of their ancient ways and cultures as they began to modernize. Simultaneously they began to feel very strongly about aspects of their culture (as well as their land) being disrespectfully exploited by outsiders. Consequently in many regions they became more reluctant to talk about sasquatch-like figures with outsiders.

Some of the best ethnographic studies, including collections of oral traditions, occurred around the turn of the previous century. Much of that information was gathered by missionaries rather than by cultural anthropologists or explorers.

The man who will likely investigate this case first (the only bigfoot researcher in Quebec):
Fossil footprint expert Yvon Leclerc

Yvon Leclerc speaks French (only) so he could potentially call around and locate the French-speaking crew faster than we can.


This page above is from a 1930 essay "Primitive Man" by Reverend Joseph Guinard.

Many of the best early native American ethnographies were written by early missionaries.

The BFRO has some modern reports from different parts of Quebec.

There are other reports online as well, like this one from a truck driver in northern Quebec.

What Could Be the Ultimate Significance of the GNF?

The ultimate significance of this figure hinges, firstly, upon the answers we get from the crew, and secondly from the details that will be visible in the best possible scans of the original footage. If those images show interesting details, those details will be signficant in themselves. And if the figure appears more sasquatch-like, and less human-like in those enlargements ... then we'll be talking to Mr. Dignard about going back there this coming summer (2010).

If the annual caribou migration of the Quebec Labrador region reliably brings caribou across this same body of water, at this spot, every year, then the same predator, or the same type of predator, may be there again in 2010 ... and it may utilize that very same ditch. If so it will be very exposed from various angles and can be filmed from above, and from a great distance, such that hours of footage might be obtained without the sasquatches even knowing they are being observed. We know of no other location, anywhere on Earth, at present, with that potential.

Indeed, the GNF might be very significant, but the world won't know until the frames are re-examined ...

The path of the annual caribou migration in the Quebec/Labrador region.


A depiction of Quebec's legendary monster, with red glowing eyes. Notice how it is crouched over, with hands on the ground, similar to the GNF as it hunkers out of view. Notice also how it emerges suddenly from the ground to pounce, as if it's an extension of the brush itself. The GNF helps illustrate how this legend may have derived from eyewitness observations of these elusive, predatory primates.
  This eyewitness sketch from the lower Appalachian Mts (made with the assistance of artist Bill Asmussen) shows the dimensions of a full grown sasquatch compared to a 6 foot tall human.

The sketch illustrates why encounterees are so adamant that what they encountered was not a human in a costume, and why impromptu photography was not a big priority during the encounter.




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