Salish Sea human foot discoveries
Since August 20, 2007, several detached human feet have been discovered on the coasts of the Salish Sea in British Columbia (Canada) and Washington (United States). The feet belonged to five men, one woman, and three other people of unknown sex, the two left feet having been matched with two of the right feet. As of February 2012, only five feet of four people have been identified; it is not known to whom the rest of the feet belong. In addition, a hoax "foot" was planted on Vancouver Island.
As of January 26, 2012, ten or eleven feet have been found in Canada, and three in the US State of Washington.
The first foot was discovered on August 20, 2007, on Jedediah Island, by a girl visiting from Washington. The girl found the foot when she picked up a shoe and opened the sock. The foot was that of a man, and was found wearing a size 12 Adidas shoe and a sock. It is thought to have become disarticulated due to submerged decay. This kind of shoe was produced in 2003 and distributed mainly in India.
The second foot was discovered by a couple on August 26 on Gabriola Island. It was also that of a man, and also became disarticulated due to decay. It was waterlogged and appeared to have been taken ashore by an animal. It probably floated ashore from the south. This type of shoe was produced in 2004 and sold worldwide, and the type has since been discontinued.
The third foot was discovered on February 8, 2008, on Valdes Island. It was also a man's right foot and was wearing a sneaker and a sock. This type of shoe was sold in Canada or the United States between February 1, 2003, and June 30, 2003.
The fourth foot was discovered on May 22 on Kirkland Island, an island in the Fraser Delta between Richmond and Delta, British Columbia. It was also wearing a sock and sneaker. It is thought to have washed down the Fraser River, having nothing to do with the ones found in the Gulf Islands. This right foot was of a woman. The shoe was a New Balance sneaker manufactured in 1999.
The fifth foot was found by two hikers on June 16, floating in water near Westham Island, part of Delta. It has been confirmed that the left foot found on June 16 on Westham Island and the right foot found February 8 on Valdes Island belonged to the same man.
A seventh foot was discovered on November 11, 2008, in Richmond. The foot was in a shoe that was found floating in the Fraser River. The shoe was described as a small New Balance running shoe, possibly a woman's shoe. A forensic DNA profiling analysis indicated that it was a genetic match to the foot discovered on May 22 on Kirkland Island.
In July 2008 it was announced that one foot had been identified by Vancouver police, using DNA, as belonging to a man who was depressed and probably committed suicide. His identity was withheld on request of his family.
Another foot was discovered in False Creek, Vancouver, on August 30, 2011. The foot was found in a shoe floating next to the Plaza of Nations marina, attached to the lower leg bones. It had disarticulated naturally at the knee due to the water.
On November 4, 2011, a foot in a men's size 12 hiking boot was discovered by a group of campers in a pool of fresh water at Sasamat Lake near Port Moody. In January 2012, this foot was identified by the B.C. Coroner's Service as that of Stefan Zahorujko, a local fisherman who went missing in 1987. Police believe the foot separated naturally from the body and do not suspect foul play.
On January 26, 2012, the remains of "what appears to be human bones inside a boot" were found in the sand along the water line at the dog park near the Maritime Museum at the foot of Arbutus Street, in Vancouver.
The sixth foot was discovered on August 1, 2008, by a camper on a beach near Pysht, Washington. It was covered in seaweed. The site of the discovery was less than 16 kilometers from the international border in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Testing confirmed that the right foot was human. Police say the large black-top, size 11 athletic shoe for a right foot contains bones and flesh. This was the first foot of the series to be found outside of British Columbia. The RCMP and Clallam County Sheriff's Department agreed on August 5 that the foot could have been carried south from Canadian waters.
A ninth foot was discovered on August 27, 2010, on Whidbey Island in the American state of Washington. This foot was determined to have been in the water for two months. The size suggested it belonged to either a juvenile or a female. This foot was found without a shoe or sock. Detective Ed Wallace of the Island County Sheriff's Office released a statement saying the foot would be tested for DNA.
A tenth foot was found on December 5, 2010, on the tidal flats of Tacoma, Washington. "The right foot was still inside a boy's size 6 'Ozark Trail' hiking boot, and likely belonged to a juvenile or small adult, police spokesman Mark Fulghum said Tuesday in Tacoma, about 40 kilometers south of Seattle and 225 kilometers south of Vancouver."
Another foot was found September 16, 2013 on Ocean Beach in San Francisco, CA. The green size 7.5 Puma shoe contains the human tissue and bones of a foot somewhat decayed as it is believed to have circled the seabed for some time. No explanation as of yet as to cause of the severed foot. 
|August 20, 2007||Jedediah Island, British Columbia||A man's right foot; size 12 white-and-blue-mesh running shoe. The remains were identified as those of a missing and possibly depressed man from British Columbia.||
|August 26, 2007||Gabriola Island, British Columbia||A man's right foot; size 12 white Reebok.|
|February 8, 2008||Valdes Island, British Columbia||A right foot in a size 11 Nike (same person as June 16 finding). The remains were identified as a 21-year-old Surrey man who died of natural causes.||
|May 22, 2008||Kirkland Island, British Columbia||A known woman's right foot; blue-and-white New Balance sneaker (same person as November 11 finding).||
|June 16, 2008||Westham Island, British Columbia||A man's left foot (same person as February 8 finding).|
|August 1, 2008||Near Pysht, Washington||A right foot inside a man's black size 11 shoe.|
|November 11, 2008||Richmond, British Columbia||A known woman's left foot (same person as May 22 finding).|
|October 27, 2009||Richmond, British Columbia||A right foot in a size 8 1/2 Nike shoe. The remains were identified as a Vancouver-area man who was reported missing in January 2008 and died of natural causes.|
|August 27, 2010||Whidbey Island, Washington||A juvenile or female's right foot.|
|December 5, 2010||Tacoma, Washington||A juvenile or a small adult's right foot inside a boy's size 6 Ozark Trail hiking boot.|
|August 30, 2011||False Creek, British Columbia||Sex unknown. The foot was found in a man's white and blue size 9 runner.|
|November 4, 2011||Sasamat Lake, British Columbia||A man's right foot inside a size 12 hiking boot. Both were identified as that of a local man who went missing in 1987. Foul play is not suspected.|
|December 10, 2011||Lake Union, Seattle, Washington||Human leg bone and foot in a black plastic bag under the Ship Canal Bridge.|
|January 26, 2012||Vancouver, British Columbia||Possible human remains found washed up in shoe.|
Another "foot", which was discovered on June 18, 2008, on Tyee Spit near Campbell River on Vancouver Island, was a hoax. The hoax was a "skeletonized animal paw" which was put in a sock and shoe and then stuffed with dried seaweed. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have begun an investigation into the hoax, and an arrest could result in charges of public mischief.
After the eleventh foot was found on August 31, 2011, several running shoes containing what police suspected was raw meat were found washed up on Oak Beach, British Columbia.
The series of discoveries has been called "astounding" and "almost beyond explanation", as no other body parts have turned up. The discoveries have caused speculation that the feet may be those of people who died in a boating accident or a plane crash in the ocean. One explanation is that some of the feet are those of four men who died in a plane crash near Quadra Island in 2005 and whose bodies have not been recovered, though one of the feet has been determined to be from a female. Foul play has also been suggested, although none of the first four feet showed tool marks. This does not rule out foul play, however; it is possible that the bodies could have been weighted down and disposed of, and the feet are separating due to natural decay.
Determining the origin of the feet is complicated because ocean currents may carry floating items long distances, and because currents in the Strait of Georgia may be unpredictable. A foot may float as far as 1,000 miles (1,600 km). Also, human feet have a tendency to become adipocere (a soap-like substance formed from body fat), which makes it hard for forensic scientists to find clues. Under optimal conditions, a human body may remain intact in water for as long as three decades, meaning that the feet may have been floating around for years.
Another theory is that the feet belonged to people who died in the Asian Tsunami on December 26 of 2004. Richmond, British Columbia-based writer Shane Lambert has advocated this position, pointing to the fact that many of the shoes found were manufactured and sold in 2004 or earlier. Lambert acknowledges that there could be other sources for the shoes or multiple sources. However, besides the dates when the shoes were manufactured, Lambert cites ocean currents and their ultimate northward tendencies up the Pacific Ocean from part of the region that was hit by the 2004 Tsunami.
In November 2011, two feet that had washed up ashore were identified to belong to a woman who committed suicide by jumping from the Pattullo Bridge in New Westminster in 2004. This may suggest that the feet belong to various people who have jumped from the bridge; however, no further evidence has been found suggesting that the other feet also belonged to suicide jumpers.
Level of rarity
Decomposition may separate the foot from the body because the ankle is relatively weak, and the buoyancy caused by air either inside or trapped within a shoe would allow it to float away. According to SFU entomologist Gail Anderson, extremities such as the hands, feet, and head often detach as a body decomposes in the water, although they rarely float.
However, finding feet and not the rest of the bodies has been deemed unusual. Finding two feet has been given a "million to one odds" and has thus been described as "an anomaly". The finding of the third foot made it the first time three such discoveries had been made so close to each other. The fourth discovery caused speculation about human interference and, statistically, was called "curious".
After the fifth foot was discovered the story had begun to receive increased international media attention. With major headlines from newspapers such as the Melbourne Herald Sun, The Guardian, and the Cape Times in South Africa, the story elicited much speculation about the cause of the mystery, originating from "morbid fascination" with this type of subject, as stated by one scientist who identifies remains of victims. David Letterman also questioned two of his audience members who were Canadian about the mystery during one of his shows.
The Salish Sea discoveries were the inspiration for a plot point in an episode of Bones season 6, "The Feet on the Beach", in which a group of feet were discovered on a beach on the American/Canadian border. In the episode, they were from cadavers that had been washed away by flooding at a body farm.
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- CBC News (2010-12-14). "Small human foot washes ashore on West Coast".
- "Severed foot in Puma shoe is found on San Francisco beach". Los Angeles Times. 2013-09-16.
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- Gary Bellett (2008-05-24). "A fourth foot deepens the mystery; The severed-feet explanation is 'beyond imagination,' expert says after latest find". Vancouver Sun. p. B1. Original article wrote five bodies, but two of the feet has since been confirmed that they belong to same person.
- Cheryl Chan (2008-05-23). "Fourth foot fuels flotsam frenzy; Still no clues after boater's discovery in Richmond". p. A4.
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- Shane Lambert, "Human Feet in the Pacific Northwest - A Better Theory?" Associated Content, December 16th, 2010.
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- Interactive map of discoveries from CBC News