Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Yeti's foot

Over at Darren Naish's Tetrapod Zoology blog, there is a lively discussion of one of the most intriguing pieces of evidence in the cryptozoology files: the Shipton footprint. Taken in the snow on Menlung Glacier in the Himalayas by mountaineers Eric Shipton and Michael Ward in 1951, it remains a puzzle.

Here's what I added to that discussion:

A few points:
First, the photo sometimes published showing a series of tracks is, if I recall correctly, an unrelated image of goat prints. If Shipton and Ward actually took a good shot showing the series of yeti tracks (which they should have, but I've not read of them ever referring to it), it was spoiled or lost.
Second, there does appear to be some melting and refreezing in the heel, but there could not have been much, given that other areas don't show it.
Third, arguably the most eminent scientist ever to write on the topic, John Napier, wrote he might accept a composite of a bare and sandaled human print, but the explanation was not really convincing: he would have dismissed the yeti entirely except this print was "the one item in the whole improbable saga that simply sticks in my throat."

Fourth, and most important: the composite human print theory, in my experience, just does not work. I have tried this at different latitudes, altitudes (ok, only up to 6,000 feet), temperatures, angles to the sun, and textures of snow (wet/heavy, dry, and in between). At the risk (ok, it was more of a certaintly) of my wife saying I was crazy, I've made bare prints in snow and then trodden on them with various types of footwear, and also tried it in the opposite sequence. It just doesn't work. The toes never lengthen and/or separate while remaining crisp-looking. They melt into a blob. There's some variation in shape, time, etc under different conditions, but the end result is still the same: At no time do I get anything resembling the Shipton print.

I'd be curious to know whether anyone else's experimental results have been different.

Matt Bille

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