Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Elbe Trackway: I Doubt It

Tracks on the sandbar in Elbe, Washington prior to casting (Joe Beelart in background).

     When I was first told of the Elbe track find, my immediate impression was that lightning doesn't strike twice.   Finding another extended trackway within a hundred miles of Portland, only eight months after the London find, was just too good to be true.  And when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Still, my policy has always been to keep an open mind and collect all the evidence one can, and sort it all out later.  So, Joe Beelart and I left Portland before dawn with a lot of casting material and spent the day casting everyting in sight on the sandbar along the Nisqually River outside Elbe, Washington.

     On the day we cast the tracks, I was optimistic and hopeful that I had collected a dozen or so genuine bigfoot tracks.  But collecting bigfoot tracks isn't like fishing.  In fishing, you know what you have as soon as you reel it in. But in bigfoot research, you don't know what you have for days, maybe weeks afterward. Only when the track casts have cured enough to clean, inspect, and analyze do you really know what you have.  Beyind the casts themselves, the surroundings have to be searched and even the reporting party's reputation and reliablility has to be checked.

     I'm still not done, but it's been two weeks since I collected track casts in Elbe.  I still have not seen any of the other track casts that were collected by other researchers, and I still don't know anything about the original reporting party. All I really know is what the track casts in my posession are telling me but already the Elbe trackway has begun to stink. After cleaning and examining the tracks in my posession, I'm inclined to say that the Elbe trackway looks fake. 

     First of all, the tracks looked O.K. in the ground, but once I cleaned the casts, I noticed that they looked very flat.  There is no sign of any kind of mid-foot flexibility, no pressure ridge, and no dermal ridges in any of the thirteen trackcasts I collected.

      I never expected that the London casts collected back in February of this year would be so helpful, but they made very useful comparison material, and the differences are striking.  the London casts portray a smaller foot and presumable a smaller creature, but the toes and ball of the foot penetrate much deeper into the lakebed sediments, yet the heel of the London tracks is faint. The heel on alomst every London track penetrates much shallower than the toes.  Now look at the Elbe impressions.  What do you see?  I see very even penetration from heel to toe.  Hmmm. Also, the toes on the London tracks display quite a bit of variation in their splay from one track to the next.  In some tracks, only three toes are eveident.  In most of the London tracks, four toes are evident.  Only rarely in the London track can all five toes be seen in the impressions.

   On the other hand, in the Elbe trackway, I cast thirteen tracks and in every case, all five toes are equally evident.  ther is no variation whatsoever. The toes on the Elbe prints penetrate the ground just as deeply as the heel and the rest of the foot. Indeed, the toes are so uniform in their penetration as to be utterly suspicious. Clearly, it suggests the possibility that two and only two rigid wooden forms, strapped to a person's feet, were used to lay down the entire trackway.  There just isn't any change in the spacing of the toes from one track to the next, the way we saw in the London casts. That suggests fake feet that do not change shape the way real feet and real toes shift and spread from one step to the next.  Again, there is absolutely none of the variation in toe splay that is so evident in the London casts.
Note how even is the penetration of this foot impression in the 'rock flour' on the beach in Elbe, WA.  The toes and forefoot of the London was much deeper that the hind end of the foot in the London trackway.  Suspicious? I think so.

    In the London tracks, one does not find any dermal ridges.  The lack of dermal ridges is understandable in light of the fact that the tracks were rained upon for the better part of a week before they were cast.  In the Elbe trackway, the tracks were cast within days of their creation, and, absolutely no rain had fallen with the entire previous month. Yet these super fresh tracks that I have show absolutely no dermal ridges that I could find.  Granted, there are other tracks that were taken before I got there and I assume they were the best of the lot.  Still, there ought to be something by way of dermals on my casts but, for the life of me, I can't find them. Yet, other barefoot tracks (clearly human) from the same beach had dermal ridges all over them.  Suspicious indeed!
     When I first saw the Elbe tracks, the other thought that immediately occured to me was that the tracks were so conspicuously placed that it seemed we were meant to find them. This baffled me somewhat, because I have always said (and written) that the sasquatch are smart enough to avoid leaving obvious tracks. The Elbe tracks were a clear departure from my rule.  Granted, the London tracks were also rather conspicuous, but at least they were laid down in winter when daylight is short, people get out less, and the location was more remote.  In contrast, the Elbe tracks were laid down on a beach right outside the hamlet of Elbe, there was a busy road adjacent to the beach, it was late summer rather than winter, and most damning, the trackway went right through the softest, wettest, most perfect mud for tracking that could be found anywhere on that particular beach.  I even mentioned to Joe on the way home that the tracks seemed like a 'throw down'. That is, they were so ideally placed, and in such an ideal time of year, that it seemed to be a virtual invitation to find and cast these conspicuous tracks. Joe and I even discussed the possibility that, if they were genuine bigfoot tracks, maybe the sasquatch was doing us researchers a deliberate favor by leaving such ideal tracks in such an ideal location.    

    Stride length of the Elbe trackway was another red flag that I noticed at the site. The London trackway, with smaller footprints, averaged 46 inches. None of us at the London site could easily match the stride between tracks unless we jumped from track to track. There were only a few places where the stride at the London site was able to be matched by us human researchers. It was all a bit uncertain at the Elbe site because so many of the tracks had been cast and removed before we got there, but when I compared my stride to the cavities where track casts had been lifted, the stride was easily matchable. I took a measurement of 39 inches between tracks at two places in Elbe. ( Note the tracks in the photo at the top of this essay. Those tracks are less than 38 inches apart, which is well within a the stride of a six foot tall person.)  I guess we decided that, in the case of the Elbe tracks, a sasquatch may not always stride out as far as it is capable of, so we dismissed the concern at the time.

     Once I cleaned the tracks and began to inspect them over a week later, my thinking began to change.  I still felt the tracks to be a 'throw down' but the uniformity and consistency of the tracks suddeeny began to suggest that the 'throw down' was at the hands of a hoaxer, not a benevolent sasquatch.   That's where I stand on the matter as of right now.  Once I seem more of the casts, perhaps my doubts will be assuaged. If that happens, then I will admit my error.  If I can learn more about the reporting party, that would help, too. So far, I know nothing. 

      The fact that the tracks were reported to the BFRO website is not a source of reassurance.  Nothing against the good people who investigate the sightings that are received by BFRO. Indeed, they are friends and I appreciate the fact that I was cordially notified of the track find, being that I am not a card-carrying BFRO investigator. Make no mistake about it: hoaxes are rare. Sadly, though, they do happen and the more prominent the website, the more likely they are to be a 'shit magnet' for the few pathetic scum bags and losers out there who would lie about a sighting or counterfeit physical evidence.  (By the way, it's not usually a simple prank; it's a calculated effort to sabotage the efforts of sincere investigators like BFRO in the eyes of the general public.)

     By comparison, the London casts were not reported to any website or organization.  It was word of mouth communication by known and traceable individuals that led the research community to that particular track find. The impeccable credentials of the reporting party makes the London trackway a  useful standard of what we hope for in a reporting party. On the other hand, the London trackway was also a disaster as far as weather for casting tracks, although the  weather was better for Cliff than the rest of us.
Another uncast Elbe impression. Not an obvious fake, really, but very wet mud seen here was only found right along the water.  Why would a cautious creature walk where such vivid impression would be left, when most of the beach was dry sand and cracked, drymud? Note too, the even, shallow penetration unlike that seen in the London trackway, and the clear even display of all five toes.

     Who could have known that the London Trackway would be so useful to amateur bigfoot researcher like me in weighing the validity of future track finds.  Yet, this appears to be exactly the case. The London track find certainly did not produce the most finely detailed casts ever.  Far from it. The Eble casts, by comparison, were much fresher and more detailed. I, like everyone else involved, was thrilled to see more and better tracks at the Elbe site.   But the real value of the London Trackway has now, for the first time emerged. It's sort of a the gold standard of  track finds, not only  because of the rich variety of highly varied foot impressions that were permanently documented in plaster, but also and because of the high degree of integrity of the reporting parties.

     Thanks to the London trackway and all that it taught us, it is much tougher for someone to perpetrate a convincing bigfoot trackway hoax than ever before.  Amateur researchers just have a much better sense of how to evaluate a potential track find, especially one that is reported by a third party.  And speaking only for myself, based on everything I learned from the London trackway, I'm calling the Elbe Trackway a hoax.

There were a variety of barefoot impressions in the sandbar at Elbe. Here is the sum total of all tracks Joe and I cast.   The medium and small tracks are all consistent with human foot dimensions. The biggest tracks were presumed to be sasquatch at the time of casting. Further examination has raised significant doubt, based on comparisons with the London Trackway.